Image: Omar Thornton
Kristi Hannah  /  AP
A cell phone photo provided by Kristi Hannah shows her boyfriend Omar Thornton in June. Police said Thornton killed eight people and wounded two, then turned the gun on himself in a rampage on Tuesday.
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updated 8/5/2010 9:05:20 PM ET 2010-08-06T01:05:20

A black man who went on a shooting rampage at a beer distributor calmly told an emergency operator that it was "a racist place" and that he "handled the problem" but wished he had shot more people.

Omar Thornton called emergency services after shooting 10 co-workers — eight fatally — on Tuesday morning at Hartford Distributors Inc. He introduced himself as "the shooter over in Manchester" and said he was hiding in the building, but he would not say where.

"You probably want to know the reason why I shot this place up," he said, his voice steady. "This place is a racist place. They're treating me bad over here. And treat all other black employees bad over here, too. So I took it to my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I could have got more of the people."

Connecticut State Police released the audio of the four-minute emergency call on Thursday, the day company and union officials rebutted suggestions that the company had ignored Thornton's complaints of racism.

Thornton, 34, went on his rampage moments after he was forced to resign when confronted with video evidence that he had been stealing and reselling beer.

The emergency call confirmed suggestions from his relatives and girlfriend that he believed he was avenging racist treatment in the workplace.

Hartford Distributors president Ross Hollander said there was no record to support claims of "racial insensitivity" made through the company's anti-harassment policy, the union grievance process or state and federal agencies.

'Ugly allegations'
"Nonetheless, these ugly allegations have been raised and the company will cooperate with any investigation," Hollander said.

The union said 14 of 69 dock workers, or 20 percent, were racial minorities — four black, nine Hispanic, one Asian.

The idea that Thornton's motive may not have been retaliation for losing his job has not sat well with many of the people who knew the victims and have firsthand knowledge of the environment inside the enormous distribution center in Manchester.

"Everybody just thinks this race card is such a wrong thing," said Michael Cirigliano, whose slain brother, Bryan, was Thornton's union representative at the disciplinary meeting and the president of the local union.

Michael Cirigliano also spent three decades working at the warehouse before he retired two years ago.

"The Hispanics and the blacks were telling me they've never seen anything they're accusing the company of in the bathrooms or anywhere else at HDI," he said. "It's never been separated white, black, Asian. It's never been like that."

He said the company had increased its hiring of minorities in recent years.

"They've been bringing in more and more minority people to fill the positions," Cirigliano said. "You could almost go as far as that's reverse discrimination. They were hiring the groups to balance the workplace, because that's what we are in America, there's a balance."

Anthony Napolitano, the son-in-law of victim Victor James, 60, of Windsor, said James treated everyone equally, regardless of race or religion.

Driver angry at racism claims
Truck driver David Zylberman, a 34-year employee of the company, said that the racism claims "pissed me off because they were good people."

Thornton's ex-girlfriend, Jessica Anne Brocuglio, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he had a history of racial problems with co-workers at other jobs and believed he was denied pay raises because of his race.

She said he told her: "I'm sick of having to quit jobs and get another job because they can't accept me."

Thornton's girlfriend of the past eight years, Kristi Hannah, said he showed her cell phone photos of racist graffiti in the bathroom at the beer company and overheard managers using a racial epithet in reference to him. Police said they recovered the phone and forensics experts would examine it.

The union's lawyer, Gregg Adler, said the claims of racial mistreatment can be difficult to disprove, but if they had been raised by any employee the union would have acted immediately.

"There's not even a connection between the violence and the accusations as far as we can tell," Adler said. "The only people who were targeted were the people who happened to be in his meeting. And then he went to the warehouse, he just killed people who happened to be near the door."

The emergency operator attempted to keep Thornton on the phone and to talk him into surrendering. Thornton said he would not give up his location in the building and knew police were looking for him.

"When they find me that's when everything is going to be over," he said, assuring the operator he was not going to kill anyone else.

He then said he saw an elite police team and hastened to get off the phone.

"Tell my people I love them and I gotta go now," he said.

Police found him dead with a gunshot wound to his head.

Transcript of the 911 call
Here is the complete transcript of the 4-minute 911 call made by Omar Thornton to police in the moments after he shot 10 of his co-workers — eight fatally — at a beer distribution plant in Manchester, Conn., on Tuesday.

Dispatcher: State police.

Thornton: Is this 911?

Dispatcher: Yeah, can I help you?

Thornton: This is Omar Thornton, the uh, the shooter over in Manchester.

Dispatcher: Yes, where are you, sir?

Thornton: I'm in the building. Uh, you probably want to know the reason why I shot this place up. This place right here is a racist place.

Dispatcher: Yup, I understand that.

Thornton: They're treating me bad over here. And treat all other black employees bad over here, too. So I took it to my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I could have got more of the people.

Dispatcher: Yeah. Are you armed, sir? Do you have a weapon with you?

Thornton: Oh yeah, I'm armed.

Dispatcher: How many guns do have with you?

Thornton: I got one now. There's one out, one out in the uh, in the uh, factory there.

Dispatcher: Yep. OK, sir.

Thornton: I'm not going to kill nobody else though.

Dispatcher: Yeah. We're going to have to have you surrender yourself somehow here and not make the situation any worse. You know what I mean?

Thornton: These cops are going to kill me.

Dispatcher: No, they're not. We're just going to have to get you to relax ...

Thornton: I'm relaxed. I'm calmed down.

Dispatcher: ... to have you, you know, turn yourself over.

Thornton: (Unintelligible) I hear the cops are already in there. Make sure you say the right thing. Hey, the SWAT team just rolled by in Army gear. They don't know where I'm at. But I don't know, maybe you can trace this from this phone call. But yeah, these people here are crazy. And they treat me bad from when I started here. Racist company. Treat me bad. I'm the only black they've already got here. They treat me bad over here, treat me bad all the time.

Dispatcher: It's a horrible situation, I understand that.

Thornton: Hey don't try to calm me down. I'm already calmed down. I'm not going to kill nobody else. I just want to tell my story to you, so you can play it back anyway.

Dispatcher: OK. You're going to help me get you out of the building, OK?

Thornton: Alright. I'm good. (Unintellgible) I got that taken care of. I don't need anyone to talk me into getting out of the building.

Dispatcher: Where in the building are you?

Thornton: I'm not going to tell you that. When they find me that's when everything is going to be over.

Dispatcher: Yeah. Where are you located? Are you up in the offices?

Thornton: When they find me everything will be alright. (Expletive) Manchester itself is a racist place.

Dispatcher: Yeah. Now, um, what time did you get there today?

Thornton: About 7 o'clock.

Dispatcher: This morning?

Thornton: Yeah, about 7 a.m. Yeah, they told me to come early today.

Dispatcher: What kind of weapon do you have?

Thornton: I got a Ruger SR9.

Dispatcher: A Ruger? SR9?

Thornton: Automatic, yeah.

Dispatcher: Is it a rifle?

Thornton: Nah, it's a pistol. (Unintelligible) are two of my favorites.

Dispatcher: Now, uh, you're going to make, uh, the troopers and the people come in and, uh, catch you? You're not going to surrender yourself?

Thornton: Well, I guess maybe on Thursday. Nah! They're coming to get me. They gotta come get me.

Dispatcher: Yeah, we wouldn't want to do it like that, Omar. You know, it's already been a bad enough scene this morning. We want you to relax.

Thornton: I'm relaxed. I'm calmed down.

Dispatcher: We don't want any more, any more, uh, people, you know, to lose their life here.

Thornton: I'm not going to kill nobody else.

Dispatcher: OK.

Thornton: I'm not coming out of where I'm at. I'm not coming out. They have to find me. Probably bring some dogs, or whatever, I don't know what they do.

Dispatcher: How much ammunition do you have with you?

Thornton: I got, uh, a lot of shots left. Uh-oh.

Dispatcher: What's that?

Thornton: It's alright. I guess this is (unintelligible) where I have to take care of business. Tell my people I love them and I got to go now.

Dispatcher: Omar, I really want you to help me stop this situation, OK?

Thornton: OK.

Dispatcher: If you work with me we'll get this to stop, OK? Omar. Ooh! Omar. Omar. OK, he's still alive.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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