AP

Gunman kills 5 at Milwaukee brewery before taking own life

Feb 26, 2020, 7:40 PM
milwaukee shooting mass shooting workplace...
Police work outside the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, after reports of a possible shooting. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — An employee opened fire Wednesday at one of the nation’s largest breweries in Milwaukee. Police say he killed five fellow workers before taking his own life.

The assailant was identified as a 51-year-old Milwaukee man. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

“There were five individuals who went to work today, just like everybody goes to work, and they thought they were going to go to work, finish their day and return to their families. They didn’t — and tragically they never will,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Authorities offered no immediate motive for the attack. They did not release details about the shooter or how the shooting unfolded.

None of the victims was identified. Police said they were still contacting relatives as of early evening. No one was wounded beyond those who were killed, authorities said.

Officers were working to clear the more than 20 buildings in the complex where more than 1,000 people work. Police Chief Alfonso Morales said authorities believe the shooter operated alone and that the threat was over.

Pres Trump: “We send our condolences”

President Donald Trump addressed the shooting before speaking at the White House about combatting coronavirus.

“Our hearts break for them and their loved ones,” the president said. “We send our condolences. We’ll be with them, and it’s a terrible thing, a terrible thing.”

The attack occurred at a sprawling complex that includes a mix of corporate offices and brewing facilities. The complex is widely known in the Milwaukee area as “Miller Valley.” That’s a reference to the Miller Brewing Co., now a part of Molson Coors.

Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley called the shooter “an active brewery employee.”

“Unfortunately, I am devastated to share that we lost five other members of our family in this tragic incident,” he said in an email sent to employees. “There are no words to express the deep sadness many of us are feeling right now.”

He said the office would be closed for the rest of the week. And the brewery will be shuttered “for the time being” to give people time to cope.

“We’re a family”

A group of brewery employees gathered at a nearby bar to talk about what had happened.

“We are all a family. We work a lot of hours together, so we’re all very sad,” said Selena Curka, a brewery employee who was about to start her shift when the complex went on lockdown and she was turned away.

“It’s just weird, because nine times out of 10 you’re going to know the shooter,” said another employee Thomas Milner. “It’s a tight-knit family. Within the brewery we all interact with each other.”

A view from the inside

Milner was also on his way to work when the shooting happened, and he was turned away too.

James Boyles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his wife, Lasonya Ragdales, works at Molson Coors in the claims department.

She was texting from inside the facility and told her husband that there was an active shooter and she was locked in a room with a bunch of co-workers, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Historic brewery

“Miller Valley” features a 160-year-old brewery, with a packaging center that fills thousands of cans and bottles every minute and a distribution center the size of five football fields. A massive red Miller sign towers over the complex and is a well-known symbol in Milwaukee, where beer and brewing are intertwined in the city’s history.

The facility is also home to corporate customer service, finance, human resources and engineering. Tours take people to underground caves where beer was once stored, a saloon with intricate woodwork, a stein hall with stained-glass windows, a champagne room meeting hall with leaded-glass windows, and an outdoor beer garden that can hold 300 people.

Molson Coors announced in October that it planned to close a Denver office as part of a restructuring to eliminate 400 to 500 jobs. The reorganization was to benefit Milwaukee, which was expected to see hundreds of corporate and support jobs relocated there.

Mass killings in America

Before Wednesday’s shooting, there had been three mass killings nationwide in 2020, with 12 total victims. All have been shootings. In 2019, there were 44 mass killings, with 224 total victims. The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database tracks all U.S. homicides since 2006 involving four or more people killed, not including the offender, over 24 hours regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship or motive.

The last mass shooting in the Milwaukee area was in August 2012.  White supremacist Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in suburban Oak Creek. Page killed himself after being wounded in a shootout with police.

The worst mass shooting in the area in the past 20 years was in 2005 when seven people were killed and four wounded at a church service in Brookfield, a Milwaukee suburb. The shooter killed himself.
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Associated Press writers Dave Kolpack in Fargo, North Dakota, Meghan Hoyer in Washington and Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
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This story has been updated to correct the name of the company to Molson Coors Brewing Co., instead of MillerCoors.

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Gunman kills 5 at Milwaukee brewery before taking own life