BY HILDA MUÑOZ, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:51 PM EDT, August 4, 2010
On Tuesday morning, as Omar Thornton left for work, he looked like he had something on his mind, his girlfriend Kristi Hannah said.
She asked him three times what was wrong, but he said it was nothing.
"He gave me a really big hug and two kisses that were really long," she said. "He said that he loved me and that he would call me in a little while — but he never called me."
Thornton, 34, had a meeting that morning at Hartford Distributors in Manchester, when he would be offered the chance to resign or be fired because, company officials said, he had been caught on video stealing beer from the warehouse.
After he resigned, he went on a shooting spree inside the building, killing eight people and himself.
Hannah, 26, says she doesn't believe allegations that he was stealing. She said that for the past year, Thornton's co-workers muttered racist slurs as he walked by or scrawled racial epithets on the bathroom walls, she said.
He was forced out, she said, because he was black. She said she is sure racism at work pushed Thornton, who had no history of depression or mental illness, over the edge.
"I know Omar wouldn't have stole anything. He did not drink, so why the hell would he steal beer?" said Hannah.
On more than one occasion while picking up or dropping off Thornton at his job, Hannah said she saw white-haired guys walk out of Hartford Distributors carrying 30-packs of beer.
"They all did it, that's why it's funny that they're pinpointing," Hannah said.
Christopher Roos, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 1035, said Thornton never went to the union or state or federal agencies with any complaints about the way he was treated at work.
"It's all completely news to us," Roos said.
"Most people retire from that company once they hire. They get treated with dignity and respect, and that's what's really bothering me about this racial [allegation]," Roos said.
Lt. Christopher Davis, spokesman for Manchester police, said police checked the bathrooms at the company and found no evidence of racist graffiti on the walls.
"We believe it was from that termination hearing. That's all we have to go on at this point," Davis said, referring to Thornton's motive for the killings.
According to union officials, about 70 union members work at Hartford Distributors as loaders and drivers. About a half-dozen are minorities, according to officials.
Hannah said Thornton was one of two black people working at the company. A woman speaking to a 9-1-1 dispatcher said, "He's like the only black guy who works here."
Thornton was excited when he got the job at Hartford Distributors two years ago. It meant a steady paycheck and would help them move towards the future they had planned together, she said.
"He was so psyched that he got that job. He kept hugging me, saying, 'I got it! I got it!'" she said.
But he was made to work in the warehouse for about a year even though he was told he would be a driver, she said.
Not long after he became a driver, Thornton walked into the bathroom and saw a drawing of a noose and a racist message that included Thornton's name, she said. Hannah said she told him to take pictures with his cellphone.
"When he showed me the pictures, you could see it bothered him a lot," she said. "The way he said it, it really hurt him."
Police said they have not yet examined the cellphone.
She said she was on the phone with Thornton once as he overheard a conversation between a company official and a union representative, talk about getting rid of "this dumb [expletive]."
Staff Writer David Owens contributed to this report.
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