Tuesday, August 3, 2010

People Dead In A Workplace Shooting in Manchester at Hartford Distributors

At least eight people are dead in a workplace shooting in Manchester at Hartford Distributors, a family-owned beer and wine wholesaler, according to state police. Sources said Omar S. Thornton, 34, was a driver for the company and was described by a Teamsters Union official as a recent hire and a "disciplinary problem." "The union was bringing him in to meet with the company to remedy the problem," said John Hollis, a Teamsters official. "He started shooting." Thornton shot a number of people and then shot himself with a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle as police approached and is dead, sources said. Two were shot outside the building and five were shot inside, police sources said.

Hollis declined to describe the nature of the disciplinary problem, and he said he wasn't certain if the meeting had taken place when the shooting started. Joanne Hannah, who lives in Thornton's Enfield neighborhood, said her daughter Kristi had dated Thornton for eight years. Thornton, who is black, had complained about being racially harassed at work. Hannah said Thornton brought his complaints to his superiors, who did nothing about it, she said her daughter told her. A neighbor said Thornton and his girlfriend moved out of their Enfield residence about a month ago. A firefighter on duty said there were three people dead, but it was unknown whether the shooter was included in that number. More are injured, and at least one person was reported to have died after arriving at Hartford Hospital.

Steve Hollander, a member of the family that founded and owns the company, is one of the wounded, a police source said. He was shot in the neck, the source said. Another shooting victim was identified as Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington, by a man at Hartford Hospital who said he was Cirigliano's brother. Bryan Cirigliano is the president of the Teamsters Local 1035 that represents drivers at Hartford Distributors. Another victim was identified as Victor James, who died at Hartford Hospital, officials said. A number of bomb squad vehicles were seen entering the property about 9:20 a.m. A state police dispatcher said they were there to check the suspect's car. Two school buses were brought in to transport employees away about 9:30 a.m. They were brought to Manchester High School, where family members gathered. Some wounded were still inside the building at 9:35 a.m., police said.

The shooting occurred shortly before 7:30 a.m. in a facility of the beer and wine distribution company, one of the state's largest. At the time, there were about 35 or 40 people in the office and warehouse, said Brett Hollander, the director of marketing for the company. "Our shifts were just changing," said Hollander, who said the shooter was an employee. "There are definitely some people that are shot, some people that are dead," Hollander said, speaking in a tense and shaken voice about 8:30 a.m. Employees were in a warehouse across the street when police entered the building where the shooter was located.

The East Hartford police tactical response team was training at 7:33 a.m., when the department received a general call for help, said Officer Hugo Benettieri, police spokesman. As a result, the neighboring department was one of the first police agencies at the scene. The team helped with "building entry," he said. Hartford Hospital was treating three victims of the shooting, spokeswoman Rebecca Stewart said. One died on their way into surgery, she said. Shortly after the shooting, a thick column of black smoke could be seen coming from the building. It later turned to white, then stopped as firefighters were on the scene. Hartford Distributors is at 131 Chapel Road, near the border of South Windsor and Manchester in the area Buckland Hills Mall and Interstate 291. The company is one of the state's largest beer and wine distributorships, carrying hundreds of brands. The company merged last year with Franklin Distributors, a South Windsor company. Employees are represented by the Teamsters union.

Hartford Distributors was founded by Jules Hollander, the father of the current president, Ross Hollander, and grandfather of Brett, the marketing chief, and Steve, who was reported to have been shot. The company was located on Tolland Street in East Hartford for many years before moving to Manchester about 15 years ago, said U.S. Rep. John B. Larson. Last year, the company bought a rival, Franklin Distributors of South Windsor. Larson, of East Hartford, who is close to the Hollanders and some of the union officials, visited the company in mid-morning after the shootings. "The Hollander family is probably one of the most venerated families in the Hartford area in the Jewish community," Larson said. "There isn't a charity that they haven't contributed."

The family, for example, in 1994 donated a full-size bronze statue of Mark Twain to the city of Hartford. The statue had been commissioned by a Missouri riverboat company with hopes of selling it to Hartford, but the city couldn't afford it. It was in front of the library on Main Street for a few years until renovations forced it to a side street – but the Hollanders agreed to pay to move it back to its rightful spot earlier this year.

source: www.courant.com