Omar Thornton killed eight of his co-workers at the Hartford Distributors beer warehouse in one of Connecticut’s most lethal attacks ever on August 3.
Thornton, a truck driver, apparently, became enraged during a disciplinary meeting where he was reportedly given the option to resign or to face termination. Instead, Thornton, who had reportedly come prepared with a gun, opened fire on his White bosses and other White co-workers.
According to the Bureau of Justice, 1.7 million people were victims of workplace violence from 1993 to1999. The Bureau of Labor reported 11,613 workplace homicides between 1992 and 2006, averaging nearly 800 homicides a year. Workplace murders cost, approximately, $6.5 billion dollars from 1992 to 2001.
In a chilling 911 call, around 8 a.m., Thornton gave his reasons for what he had done, telling an officer “Uh, you probably want to know the reason why I shot this place up. This place is a racist place.” He added: “I wish I could have gotten more of the people.” Thornton talked of harassment by his White bosses. “They treat me bad over here; they treat all the Black employees bad over here…So I had to take it into my own hands and handle the problem,” he reportedly said.
With SWAT team members swarming the building, Thornton assured the officer “I’m not going to kill anybody else, though.” He maintained he had gotten “the five racists.” Then reiterated they “Treat me bad, I’m the only Black driver they got here. Treat me bad all the time.” When asked about his whereabouts, he answered “I’m not going to tell you that,” saying after “when they find me, everything will be all right.” He then said “Tell my people I love them,” before taking his own life.
Thornton’s bosses deny that he had ever complained of racial discrimination. They claim he was being disciplined for stealing beer, which was apparently caught on videotape. Christy Quail, 33, has been arrested on charges of buying stolen beer from Thornton. Christopher Roos, a Teamster official, said "It's got nothing to do with race," Roos said. "This is a disgruntled employee who shot a bunch of people."
Thornton’s family maintains racial harassment and workplace bullying pushed him over the breaking point. Thornton's uncle, Will Holliday, said: "This all could have been avoided. He went to the Union a couple of times with issues concerning what was going on, and it was not dealt with appropriately."
"He had some instances of racism at the company," Holliday insists. "They were hanging nooses in the bathroom and writing stuff like that. They were singling him out because he was the only black person there in that area." Thornton is said to have documented some of the threats.
Was Thornton the target of racial discrimination and bullying? Company and Teamster officials have said this is just a “disgruntled” thief caught on camera stealing from the company. Is this enough to disprove racism wasn’t involved here?
There is no justification for the killings. People who feel they are being victimized in the corporate environment need to use the legal channels. For those who face discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a local Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA) is probably your best bet, unless you opt to call in a personal lawyer.
Many workers aren’t aware they have rights employers are required to respect by law. Moreover, many bosses take advantage of that ignorance and use it in their campaign to abuse workers. This can result in violence and murder.
Workplace violence isn’t simply a Black and White issue—it’s primarily about class—racism does play a toxic role here. In 2007, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 46 percent of Blacks—and 52 percent of Latinos—were currently being bullied or had been bullied in the past. For whites, its 33 percent. Blacks and Latinos also had the highest rates of witnessing bullying, 21 percent and 14 percent respectively. For whites its 10 percent.
To some, these statistics may not seem that warped.
But just remember: Whites represent 75 percent, or 228.2 million, of the total American population. Hispanics represent 15.4 percent, or 46.9 million. The Black percentage is 12.4, or 37.6 million. Given American racism, we shouldn’t be surprised by these numbers. The most vulnerable are preyed upon within the economic scheme of things.
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