- Associated Press - Sunday, August 8, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — To those closest to him, Omar Thornton was caring, quiet and soft-spoken. He was excited to land a well-paying job at a beer delivery company a few years ago and his longtime girlfriend says they talked of marrying and having children.

But underneath, Thornton seethed with a sense of racial injustice for years that culminated in a shooting rampage Tuesday in which the Connecticut man killed eight and wounded two others at his job at Hartford Distributors in Manchester before killing himself.

“I know what pushed him over the edge was all the racial stuff that was happening at work,” said his girlfriend, Kristi Hannah.

Thornton, a black man, said as much in a chilling, four-minute 911 call.

“You probably want to know the reason why I shot this place up,” Thornton said in a recording released Thursday. “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.”

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

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. Relatives of the victims also rejected the claims.

Thornton, who grew up in the Hartford area, complained about racial troubles on the job long before he worked at Hartford Distributors.

“He always felt like he was being discriminated (against) because he was black,” said Jessica Anne Brocuglio, his former girlfriend. “Basically they wouldn’t give him pay raises. He never felt like they accepted him as a hard working person.”

One time Thornton had a confrontation with a white co-worker who used a racial slur against him, she said. Thornton changed jobs a few times because he was not getting raises, Brocuglio said.

“I’m sick of having to quit jobs and get another job because they can’t accept me,” she said he told her.

Brocuglio, who said she dated Thornton until eight years ago, said Thornton helped her become a certified nursing aide. She said he never drank or smoked and remained calm, even when she would yell or grab him.

“He was such a caring person,” said Brocuglio, who is white. “He showed me so much love. He was like a teddy bear.”

Brocuglio’s sister, Toni, said Thornton would come home and say co-workers called him racial slurs. He was also upset by comments made by passers-by about the interracial couple, she said.

“He just didn’t understand why people had so much hatred in their lives,” Toni Brocuglio said.

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