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Police: Gunman chased at least one victim through building

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Chilling 911 call during CT shooting
  • NEW: Omar Thornton brought two guns with him in a lunchbox, police say
  • NEW: Authorities believe at least some of the victims were targeted
  • NEW: Police think the guns used were legally purchased
  • NEW: A memorial service is planned Wednesday night for victims

For more on this story, go to CNN affiliates WTNH and WFSB.

(CNN) -- A man who shot eight people dead Tuesday at a Connecticut beverage distributor before turning the gun on himself chased at least one of his victims through the building and out into a parking lot, police said Wednesday.

Police are still attempting to determine whether Omar Thornton targeted his victims, said Manchester, Connecticut police Lt. Chris Davis. But "it's probably likely that he was targeting some individuals," he said, as some of those who died were in management. Thornton passed others by without shooting them, he said.

Authorities said Thornton, 34, resigned under pressure Tuesday after he was accused of stealing alcoholic beverages while on his driving route for Hartford Distributors.

As he left that meeting, escorted by two people, Thornton said he wanted a drink of water and went into the kitchen area, Davis said. Police believe he had brought two 9mm handguns to the building in a lunchbox. In the kitchen, he pulled out the guns and shot his two escorts.

Thornton then "went through the whole building in a very short amount of time" as workers cowered under desks and in "nooks and crannies" and 9-1-1 calls poured in, Davis said.

Read 9-1-1 call transcript

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He would not say whether anyone was shot in the parking lot, but said Thornton shot through a glass door to re-enter the building.

Asked about allegations that Thornton, who was African-American, had experienced racial discrimination at work, Davis said police, working with the company, had found no evidence of discrimination.

A girlfriend of Thornton had indicated he was a victim of racial harassment at the beverage center, the girlfriend's mother, Joanne Hannah, said Tuesday. She said Thornton told the girlfriend he had reported it to a company supervisor and a union representative but nothing was done about it.

"There is nothing on record of any complaints from Omar and there had been no disciplinary actions with him prior to this," said Chris Roos, secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 1035, said Wednesday.

The first 9-1-1 call came in at 7:26 a.m., Davis said, and the first officers arrived within three minutes. A five-man team was sent into the building to search for the suspect within 10 minutes, he said. Thornton's body was found in a corner office area of the building by 8:15 a.m.

Earlier Wednesday, Manchester police identified the eight slain people as Francis Fazio, 57, of Bristol, Connecticut; Douglas Scuton, 56, of Middletown, New Hampshire; Edwin Kennison, 49, of East Hartford, Connecticut; William Ackerman, 51, of

Broadbrook, Connecticut; Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington, Connecticut; Craig Pepin, 60, of South Windsor, Connecticut; Louis Felder Jr., 50, of Stamford, Connecticut; and Victor James of Windsor, Connecticut, who was killed on his

61st birthday.

The injured people were Steven Hollander, 50, of South Windsor. He was treated and released from Hartford Hospital. Jerome Rosenstein, 77, of West Hartford, Connecticut, remained in serious condition, authorities said Wednesday.

Cirigliano was the shop steward for the Teamsters union and its president, Roos said Tuesday.

One of those killed was attempting to escape from the gunfire and drove a forklift into an electrical conduit, starting an electrical fire, Davis said Wednesday. He would not say whether that person was shot.

Police also found a shotgun in Thornton's vehicle, but believe it was not used in the shootings, Davis said. Thornton was "fairly nomadic," he said, and authorities have searched his previous addresses, but found nothing of value.

Asked whether the company had taken security measures for the meeting with Thornton, Davis said some measures were taken. The company had had a private investigator follow Thornton in an effort to determine whether he was taking the alcohol, he said.

Thornton left no notes behind, and made no comments to relatives about his plans, Davis said, but the fact that he brought the guns to the building indicates the shootings were "obviously something he was thinking about doing."

Thornton had six guns registered to him, and police were attempting to account for them all, he said. Authorities believe the guns used in the shootings were bought at a gun dealership in East Windsor, Connecticut.

Joanne Hannah said Thornton showed her daughter, Kristie Hannah, a cell phone photo of racial epithets and a stick figure with a noose around its neck drawn on a restroom stall. He said he was in a stall once and heard a coworker say they "wanted that n----- out of there," she said.

Thornton's mother told CNN affiliate WFSB that she received a phone call from him shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday. He told her he had just shot several people and planned to kill himself. She said she told WFSB that she pleaded with him not to do it for 10 minutes, but it didn't work.

"He said, 'I killed the five racists that was there bothering me,'" Will Holliday, Thornton's uncle, told WFSB. "He said, 'That's it. The cops are going to come in so I'm going to take care of it myself.'"

About 50 people were in the building at the time, officials said.

"It couldn't have happened at a worse time of day," Teamsters union official John Hollis told CNN affiliate WTNH. "They have third shift going on, the first shift coming on, the office staff there, the sales staff there."

About 170 people work at the company, Roos said.

The shootings left the company and the community in shock. A memorial service was planned for Wednesday night to allow community members to grieve.

At the company Wednesday, employees comforted one another. One man, identified only as Roy, was in the building at the time of the shootings.

One employee embraced Roy. Asked afterward how Roy had described the incident, the man said Roy told him, "Pure hell, Al, and just walked away. Pure hell ... And I'm sure it was."

CNN's Adam Reiss contributed to this report.