No proof of racism at site of 2010 shooting rampage: police

CONWAY, Mass Fri May 13, 2011 2:58am BST

Friends, family and co-workers of shooting victims gather outside Manchester High School after an employee of family-owned beer wholesaler Hartford Distributors opened fire on his co-workers, killing eight before killing himself August 3, 2010 in Manchester, Connecticut. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

Friends, family and co-workers of shooting victims gather outside Manchester High School after an employee of family-owned beer wholesaler Hartford Distributors opened fire on his co-workers, killing eight before killing himself August 3, 2010 in Manchester, Connecticut.

Credit: Reuters/Michelle McLoughlin

CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - There is no proof of systemic racism at a Connecticut beer distributor where a gunman shot dead eight people last year because he said African-Americans were treated badly, a police probe concluded.

Omar Thornton, 34, a driver at Hartford Distributors, a family-owned beer wholesaler 10 miles east of the state capital in Manchester, shot eight people before killing himself in August 2010.

Minutes before the frenzy took place, Thornton, who was black, was fired at a disciplinary meeting for having stolen beer and empty kegs from the company.

Manchester police on Thursday released a 543-page report on its investigation into the killing, as well as surveillance footage of Thornton walking through the firm's lobby with a 9 millimeter handgun in one hand and a lunch box in the other. The shooting spree lasted just three minutes.

Police Chief Marc Montminy told a press conference that there had been allegations that Thornton had photographic evidence of racial slurs against him on his cell phone. But Montminy said forensic analysis of the phone showed that "that is not true."

"We also interviewed the other minorities that worked at the facility to see if there was systemic racism within the building, and not only did they not agree with Omar's position but they found quite the contrary," Montminy said.

A few months before the shooting, graffiti was discovered on a bathroom stall wall depicting President Barack Obama hanging from a noose, authorities said. When Hartford Distributors' management was notified, the picture was quickly removed. Police are not sure if Thornton ever saw that image.

In a 911 call Thornton made from the scene that morning after he stalked the company's offices, shooting numerous co-workers, he identified himself to a dispatcher as the shooter.

"You probably want to know why I shot this place up. This place is a racist place. They treat me bad over here," Thornton said in a recording of the 911 call. "They treat all the other black employees bad over here too. So, I took it into my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I (could have) got more of the people."

(Editing by Greg McCune)