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Aug 04 2010

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Investigation Continues at Manchester Murder Scene

By Christine Dempsey, The Hartford Courant

Twenty-four hours after the deadliest workplace shooting in state history, the scene at Hartford Distributors on Chapel Road was quiet Wednesday morning, as investigators pieced together the events and combed through evidence.

Police believe Omar S. Thornton, 34, shot eight people at Hartford Distributors in Manchester on Tuesday morning before turning the gun on himself.

Officials identified two employees Wednesday morning as Francis Fazio Jr., 57, of Bristol; and Louis J. Felder, 50, of Stamford.

The other shooting victims have been identified as Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington; Craig Pepin, 60, of South Windsor; William Ackerman, 51, of South Windsor; Doug Scruton, 56, of Manchester and New Hampshire; Edwin Kennison Jr., 49, of East Hartford, and Victor James, 60, of Windsor.

One of the three victims taken by ambulance to Hartford Hospital Tuesday morning remained in the intensive care unit Wednesday in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Hospital officials did not identify the man or comment on his prognosis.

Victor James, 60, died at the hospital Tuesday before doctors could operate on him. Steven Hollander, an executive at Hartford Distributors, suffered two gunshot wounds in the attack. He was treated and released, hospital officials said.

Jerome Rosenstein, 77, of West Hartford was injured in the attack, sources said. He is recovering at Hartford Hospital.

Access to the sprawling warehouse was blocked by a patrol car and police tape.

“More still has to be processed,” said Manchester Police Capt. James Neiswanger as he stood outside the building this morning.

Detectives and evidence technicians are expected to return to the scene later, Neiswanger said. The state police are helping with the forensic side of the investigation, he said.

The bodies have been removed from the building, state police said. They expect names of victims to be released later this morning.

Autopsies showed that all eight victims died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Omar Thornton’s death was ruled a suicide, caused by a gunshot wound to the head.

Rabbi Mayer Berger came to the scene to collect Felder’s remains. He is to be buried today, in accordance with Jewish law.

A man and woman talked outside the entrance of Hartford Distributors about 9:10 a.m. They then embraced.

They declined to comment as they got into separate cars and drove away.

Al Bassett hugged his former co-worker outside Hartford Distributors Wednesday morning.

Bassett, a retired trucker with the company, had come to talk to other past and present employees and offer support. Roy walked up.

Roy is in the latter category and was at the warehouse Tuesday during the shooting rampage. More than 24 hours later, Bassett said, he was a wreck.

“I gave him a big hug. He wouldn’t let go,” Bassett said. “He just said ‘pure hell’ and then he walked away crying.”

“He won’t be right for a while,” Bassett said.

Bassett said he still can’t believe nine people died in the shooting, including the suspected gunman.

Bassett worked there 30 years.

“The Hollander family was always great,” he said. “Great people.”

The pay was good, the benefits were good, and the company was fair in how it treated its workers, he said.

David Dowd of West Hartford said he just missed the rampage. A truck driver for Hartford Distributors for 30 years, he left his job at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday.

He seemed shell-shocked as he talked to reporters about the shooting outside the warehouse Wednesday.

“I knew them all,” he said of the victims, although he said he didn’t know the suspected shooter well.

He has a hard time believing reports that racism motivated Thornton.

“If you knew the Hollanders, they would never tolerate that,” Dowd said before his daughter whisked him away.

According to a recorded message, counselors will be available at Teamsters Local 1035 office in South Windsor office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friends and family of Hartford Distributor employees seeking information about the shooting can call 860-645-5521.

About 8:10 a.m., two representatives of OSHA arrived at the scene and spoke with Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy.

One of them, Terence M. McEvily, assistant area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hartford-area office, said he will open up a separate investigation because OSHA investigates all workplace deaths.

OSHA needs to make a formal determination that the incident was criminal in nature — which it is believed to be — and not an accident.


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