From the Christian Science Monitor:
Is racism at heart of Connecticut shooting? Answer still unclear.From the New York Times:
The Connecticut shooting Tuesday, in which nine people died at Hartford Distributors – including the suspected shooter – comes at a time of heightened racial tension in the US.
By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / August 4, 2010
In a phone call to his mom after in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the man suspected of shooting eight of his co-workers at Hartford Distributors in Manchester, Conn., reportedly said, "I killed the five racists that were bothering me." Then he took his own life.
The deaths at the beer distributor plant is the largest-scale workplace shooting since the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood last year.
Union officials claim that there's no record of the alleged shooter, Omar Thornton, making any official complaints about racism. Company spokesmen deny that employees harbored racist views.
But the suggestion that racism led Mr. Thornton to kill eight of his coworkers comes during a summer when race has often been at the front of the American conversation – from allegations against the "tea party" movement to the saga of Shirley Sherrod.
Reports indicate that, to Thornton at least, race was an issue at Hartford Distributors. He told friends and relatives that coworkers had scrawled racist epithets on a bathroom wall and a hung a stick-figure effigy in a miniature noose.
... On Wednesday, Mr. Thornton’s girlfriend expanded on claims he was motivated by anger and frustration at what she said was the racist treatment he had been subjected to at the company.From CBSNews.com:
Officials with the union that represents workers at the plant said Mr. Thornton never mentioned racial harassment but had indeed grown frustrated a year ago at the fact that he had not risen to become a driver of the company’s delivery trucks, and that the local union president, Bryan Cirigliano, had successfully worked to secure that promotion for him.
“Our understanding is Bryan intervened,” the union lawyer Gregg Adler said, adding that Mr. Cirigliano “assisted in getting him that training and he got the training and he became a driver, which is a preferred job for some people.”...
Kristi Hannah, his longtime girlfriend, tried again to largely blame Mr. Thornton’s bosses and union representatives for the massacre because of what she described as racist behavior and a refusal to deal with his repeated complaints about it.
Ms. Hannah, 26, wept on the front porch of her mother’s two-story house in the working-class town of Enfield as she described Mr. Thornton’s problems. She said that last fall Mr. Thornton called her from the men's room at the plant to let her hear his boss and a colleague he identified as a union representative say they were going to get rid of him, using a racial slur. Ms. Hannah said she could hear the comments clearly because of how they echoed in the bathroom. She said that even though Mr. Thornton brought the case to his union representative several times, the union never followed up.
“I know they pushed them; they did this to him,” Ms. Hannah said. “I know what was said, and I know it was very hurtful, and I know it bothered him a lot.”
She added that Mr. Thornton’s frustration with his job had been growing for many reasons. He had been frustrated by the inability to become a driver quickly; she said workers filled his truck with so many deliveries that he often worked much later than his co-workers, sometimes until 1:30 a.m. Michael Pletscher, a longtime driver at the company, however, said it was normal for the newest drivers to get the worst and longest shifts. Ms. Hannah’s brother, Ryan Conway, 13, echoed his sister’s sentiments. “Omar was a great guy,” Ryan said. “This thing was brought on by people who don’t treat each other as equals.”
At a news conference outside the Local 1035 union hall a few blocks from the warehouse, a union lawyer, Gregg Adler, and its secretary-treasurer, Christopher Roos, said the shootings had struck at the heart of a small, tight-knit union. “We have 70 employees,” Mr. Adler said. “We lost 10 percent of our members.”
Mr. Adler dismissed the accusations of racism, saying Mr. Thornton had never filed any complaints with the union, nor did he know of any complaints filed by other employees.
“The allegations were news to us,” he said. Mr. Adler said Mr. Thornton appeared to have targeted those who were at his disciplinary meeting. “The other people were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. ...
Mr. Thornton’s family, after spending much of Tuesday defending him, avoided reporters on Wednesday.
Wilbert Holliday, Mr. Thornton’s uncle, said that only Mr. Thornton’s mother would speak in the future, and that she would decide when the moment was right. “We’re all victims here,” Mr. Holliday said.
Omar Thornton: "I Killed the Five Racists"
MANCHESTER, Conn. (CBS/WFSB/AP) Family members say Omar Thornton, the man suspected in the Tuesday morning massacre at Hartford Distributors, was a quiet, hard-working man who wasn't a violent person, but was pushed to the breaking point by harassment at work.
Thornton's mother, who lives in East Hartford, said she received a phone call from him shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday.
According to CBS affiliate WFSB, she says he told her he had shot several people at the beer distribution plant where he worked, and that he planned to take his own life. She said she spent 10 minutes trying to talk to her son, pleading with him to change his mind, but she said she couldn't.
Minutes later, Thornton was dead.
"He said, 'I killed the five racists that was there bothering me,'" said Will Holliday, Thornton's uncle. "He said, 'That's it. The cops are going to come in so I'm going to take care of it myself.'"
Holliday said Thornton had been complaining to relatives that in the several years he worked at Hartford Distributors he was confronted with blatant racism.
Holliday said, "He had some instances of racism at the company. They were hanging nooses in the bathroom and writing stuff like that. They were singling him out because he was the only black person there in that area."
Thornton's family said he had taken pictures of the threats and said they believe he just snapped Tuesday morning.
They said they expressed condolences to the families of the victims, but they said they were mourning, too.
"This all could have been avoided," Holliday said. "He went to the Union a couple of times with issues concerning what was going on, and it was not dealt with appropriately."