HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS/AP) Omar Thornton told the 911 operator that he had only one regret after opening fire on his fellow employees at Hartford Distributors Inc. Aug. 3 - that he wasn't able to kill more people, according to a 911 recording released Thursday.
Thornton called 911 after shooting 10 fellow employees, eight of whom died, in the Hartford, Conn. beer distribution center. He introduced himself as "the shooter over in Manchester," and calmly told the operator that he had "handled the problem" of what he called a "racist place."
"They're treating me bad over here. And treat all other black employees bad over here, too," Thornton explained in a measured tone. "So I took it to my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I could have got more of the people."
The four-minute recording was released by the Connecticut State Police the same day that company and union officials rebutted suggestions that Thornton had been a victim of racial harassment.
According to company officials, Thornton, 34, went on his rampage moments after he was forced to resign when confronted with video evidence that he had been stealing and reselling beer.
But Thornton's girlfriend of the past eight years, Kristi Hannah, said he showed her cell phone photos of racist graffiti in the bathroom at the beer company and had overheard managers using a racial epithet in reference to him. Police said they recovered the phone and forensics experts would examine it.
The suggestion that Thornton's rampage was triggered by a racist environment doesn't sit well with surviving employees and people close to the victims who say allegations of racism are false.
"Everybody just thinks this race card is such a wrong thing," said Michael Cirigliano, whose slain brother, Bryan, was Thornton's union representative at the disciplinary meeting and the president of the local union. "It's never been separated white, black, Asian. It's never been like that."
Hartford Distributors president Ross Hollander said there was no record to support the claims of racism but that the company would cooperate with any investigation.
On the recording the 911 operator can be heard trying to keep Thornton on the phone and to get him to surrender and disclose his location in the building. But as soon as Thornton spotted the SWAT team closing in he got off the phone with one last message.
"Tell my people I love them and I gotta go now."
Thornton was found dead a while later with a gunshot wound to the head.