Aug 062010

Shortly after 7:30 a.m. on August 3, 2010, Omar Thornton opened fire at employees at Hartford Distributors, a Budweiser warehouse in Manchester, CT.  Thornton was called in by his employer and shown video surveillance footage of him stealing beer from the facility.  After calmly signing a letter of resignation, and not contesting the accusations against him, Thornton opened fire on coworkers at the facility for a period spanning only minutes.  One witness suspected that Thornton was carrying a weapon in the lunch bag he brought to work.  Thornton shot and killed 8 employees, and wounded 2 others before killing himself.  After shooting his coworkers, Thornton phoned family members and allegedly revealed his motive for the attack. 

Before being confronted on steeling beer from his workplace, Thornton, 34, had no history of complaints/disciplinary action against him.  According to his girlfriend, Thornton possessed a pistol permit.  His relatives claim that Thornton, who is African-American, suffered from racial harassment, and finally ‘cracked.’ According to his girlfriend’s mother, Thornton said he found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall.  While on the phone after the shooting, Thornton stated, “I killed the five racists that was there that was bothering me,” according to the uncle. However, according to a union official, Thornton never filed a complaint on grounds of racism. 

This incident suggests that active shooter incidents may involve individuals who do not exhibit traits that can signal a potential threat; such as aggressive behavior, or visible animosity towards coworkers.

This example demonstrates that security personnel (if applicable) and police may be confronted with a complex scenario; a chaotic scene at a large facility where it may be difficult to immediately identify and interdict the threat. 

If Thornton was being racially harassed, that is completely unacceptable.  Thornton should have filed a complaint with the proper authorities and the guilty parties dealt with as quickly as possible.  This incident seems all too coincidental that Thornton started shooting after he was shown video surveillance of him stealing from his own company.  Could the racial harassment have been an excuse?  I don’t know.  Either way, the Budweiser plant should have had on-site private security in place to expectantly deter and prevent such an incident.  Given the state of our economy and the slow gradual moral decline of our nation, people are “snapping” and resorting to violence like never before.  We are constantly seeing an increase in violence on all levels of society (workplace, schools, churches, shopping centers, etc).

If there would have been armed private security guards in place at the Budweiser plant, they could have assisted in the termination of Thornton just like standard practices at other corporate offices.  The terminated employee is generally escorted off the premises by security in an attempt to ensure that arguing or violence of any kind doesn’t take place.  The terminated employee is also told not to return.  If that employee returns at any time, they are generally confronted outside of the workplace or at the entrance to ensure the safety of the other employees, and to contact local law enforcement. 

Implementing private security at your place of employment, enhancing your existing private security team with current tactics and best practices could have kept this tragic shooting from happening.  Should a shooting take place, having armed security on-site could protect more lives than not and possibly stop the shooter.  History and facts have shown that active shooter incidents start and end before law enforcement arrives on scene.  

Implications of an Active Shooter

  1. Active shooter attacks continue to occur in schools, workplaces, and public venues.
  2. Disgruntled attackers may not signal their intent by openly revealing their hostility.
  3. In the first few minutes, the initial response will involve facility security personnel (if applicable) and employees.  Response procedures should include:
  • Evacuate the building if it can be done in a safe manner
  • Relocate to a safe area and secure the area to the degree possible
  • Call 911 and relay information as calmly as possible
  • In order to aid responding law enforcement, do not lock exit doors.  When approached by a responding officer, stop moving and raise your hands so as to not appear as a threat. 

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