MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin -- An ex-employee opened fire with a gun and killed five people before taking his own life at the MillerCoors brewery complex in Milwaukee, law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The gunman was identified as a 51-year-old Milwaukee man who had been fired earlier Wednesday and returned to the site with a gun, officials said; he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities did not release further details about the shooter or how the shooting unfolded.
"There was a horrific shooting that occurred. It is a horrible, horrible day for the employees here. It’s a very rough day for anyone who is close to this situation,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 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,” added Barrett.
None of the five victims was identified. Police said they were still contacting relatives as of Wednesday evening. No one was wounded beyond those who were killed, authorities said.
The mass shooting occurred at a sprawling complex that includes a mix of corporate offices and brewing facilities. About 1,000 people work at the complex, which is widely known in the Milwaukee area as “Miller Valley," a reference to the Miller Brewing Co. that is now part of the Molson Coors Beverage Company.
The CEO of Molson Coors headed back to Milwaukee from a company conference that was taking place in Texas.
“Unfortunately, I am devastated to share that we lost five other members of our family in this tragic incident,” CEO Gavin Hattersley said. “There are no words to express the deep sadness many of us are feeling right now.”
He said the office would be closed the rest of the week and the brewery shuttered “for the time being” to give people time to cope.
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.”
Milner was also on his way to work when the shooting happened, and he was turned away too.
“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.
President Donald Trump addressed the shooting before speaking at the White House about steps his administration is taking to combat the 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.”
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 over 24 hours regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship or motive.
The last mass shooting in the Milwaukee area was in August 2012. when 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.
Shortly before word of the brewery shooting broke, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald that state gun laws would not be changing despite a push by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, to do so, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper.
Evers called lawmakers into special session late last year to consider expanding background checks and allowing guns to be taken from people deemed a threat. But the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourned without action. Fitzgerald later called the shootings “an act of evil,” the Journal Sentinel reported.
At a news conference outside Molson Coors, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, “We shouldn’t accept this.” He took up the issue later on social media, tweeting: “Another avoidable uniquely American tragedy. It’s not normal, we should never accept it, and we should never relent when ‘leaders’ offer hollow thoughts and prayers but choose inaction.”