MANCHESTER ——Five employees of Hartford Distributors Inc. tried to warn their fellow workers or physically stop Omar Thornton during his shooting spree, including a 77-year-old man who tried to run him over with a golf cart.
But Thornton shot them and others, leaving eight dead, and one man — Jerome Rosenstein, the man in the golf cart — fighting for his life.
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"He was eerily cool,'' Manchester Police Lt. Christopher Davis said Wednesday.
Teamsters Local 1035 President Bryan Cirigliano tried to stop Thornton as he opened fire on Steven Hollander, the company's chief financial officer, and Louis Felder, the director of operations, following the meeting at which Thornton resigned. But Thornton turned and shot Cirigliano in the head, killing him instantly. Felder and Cirigliano were Thornton's first victims.
Thornton chased two men — Victor James and Edwin Kennison — out of the warehouse, shooting them as they ran down the driveway. Kennison died immediately.
James was found by the first Manchester police officer on the scene, who put James on the hood of his car and drove him to a place where paramedics could treat him. James later died at Hartford Hospital.
Thornton shot Douglas Scruton from nearly 40 feet away inside the warehouse. Scruton was investigating the noise that he had heard near the office area of the 77,000-square-foot warehouse when he drove his forklift around a corner toward the loading dock, encountered Thornton and was hit by several bullets. The forklift that Scruton was driving crashed into a wall and started a fire.
Three men — James, Craig Pepin and Francis Fazio Jr. — warned fellow employees that Thornton had a gun and that they should flee. Thornton chased down all three and killed them.
Two men were shot dead in the southeast corner of the building, in what sources referred to as a beer storage room that had a smaller space known as the redemption room. Another was chased down and killed at the end of a 40-foot-wide path that ran through the heart of the warehouse.
The shooting started only seconds after a disciplinary hearing attended by Thornton, Cirigliano, Hollander and Felder ended in a corner office sometime before 7:25 a.m. Hollander and Felder had confronted Thornton with surveillance video showing Thornton twice "removing product from his delivery truck and placing it in a private vehicle," union officials said.
Thornton had even commented on the quality of the surveillance video before conferring briefly with Cirigliano and then signing the resignation letter.
"He made the rational choice under the circumstances to resign rather than be fired and have that placed on his record,'' Teamsters 1035 legal counsel Gregg Adler said. "There was nothing in his behavior at that point for anyone to be concerned for their safety.''
Thornton and Cirigliano left the room, and Thornton said he wanted to get a drink of water in the kitchen next door. When he went into the kitchen, Thornton took out two 9mm Ruger pistols from a red lunch box that he was carrying and came out shooting.
Felder was killed instantly and Hollander was shot twice. Cirigliano ran back toward Thornton, and Thornton turned and shot him point-blank, sources said.
Thornton then fired numerous rounds into other offices, skipping one occupied by a woman in a wheelchair, before going through a door into the warehouse. Police were still trying to piece together the order in which the other victims were shot, but union officials believe that after Thornton targeted Felder and Cirigliano, everyone else was chosen randomly.
"The workers shot after he entered the warehouse just happened to be working outside the warehouse door when Omar opened it," Adler said. "To say that he went out into the warehouse and looked for specific people to shoot just isn't true.''
Both James and Kennison tried to escape out a door on the southwest side of the building, but Thornton chased them down in the parking lot. Hollander, who was injured, described the chase as he called 911 at 7:25 a.m.
"I need the cops here at Hartford Distributors right away. Omar Thornton is shooting people; I just got shot,'' Hollander told the dispatcher.