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‘Senseless violence:’ Miller Brewery employee killed 5; shooter dead

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said five Miller Brewery employees were fatally shot at their workplace near 41st Street and State Street Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 26. The shooter, a Milwaukee man, 51, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The shooter was an employee. No members of the public were involved.

The shooting happened just after 2 p.m. at the Molson Coors Beverage Company -- the old Miller Brewery.

On Wednesday evening, police were screening people and checking off workers one by one -- an arduous task. Chief Morales said more than 1,000 were working at the time. By Wednesday night, police said the scene had been secured, all employees were allowed to go home. The recovery of victims was ongoing.

"We have several people we need to talk to, and we have to go through a roll call and identify who’s missing," said Chief Morales said Wednesday evening.

The names of the victims were not released Wednesday, due to family notifications.

"It’s a terrible day for Milwaukeeans, and I pass on my condolences to the families of the employees of Miller, and to the employees of Miller, or Molson Coors," said Chief Morales.

An employee told FOX6 the Milwaukee campus would remain closed for the rest of the week. FOX6 obtained the below letter from Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley, shared with employees. Hattersley spoke in Milwaukee Wednesday night.

MillerCoors shooting: Letter from Molson Coors' CEO Gavin Hattersley

MillerCoors shooting: Letter from Molson Coors' CEO Gavin Hattersley

The shooting happened in the Miller Valley amid Molson Coors' annual conference in Houston. KTRK reported employees, including distributors from across the country, were at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston for the three-day conference, which began Monday, Feb. 24, and was being held for distributors. KTRK reported a reception that was planned after the conference was canceled, along with other events, and Hattersley addressed attendees, making them aware of the shooting before flying back to Milwaukee.

"This is a tragic day for our city," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday evening. "This is a tragic day for our state. Five families, six families, actually, are grieving and will be grieving because of this horrific act of this individual. This is a time for us to think about those families because there are 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."

"We’re here on the scene of another American tragedy, another senseless American tragedy, one that shouldn’t have to happen," said Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. "Unfortunately, it's in our backyard, and I hate to say this. This is the 11th mass shooting in our state since 2004. I especially want to thank the first responders who, frankly, are still responding to the situation. I want to offer my condolences to the family, the friends, the co-workers of everybody involved, but I also want to issue a call, a challenge, because we shouldn’t accept this. This isn’t the way things should be, and we should never grow comfortable in the face of these repeated tragedies all across America, and especially right here at home, we have a duty to act. We have to be more responsible as a city, as a state, as a nation to stop these preventable tragedies from happening. It doesn’t happen anywhere else but here. I know a whole lot of people who, I’m friends with a whole lot of folks who work in those halls. I’ve spent time with them on my personal time and during campaigns, and I’ve got friends, and I’m actually worried to see whose lives were lost in this tragedy, and this is something that, five people who went to work, who thought they would come home, you think about families of the individuals, people who just want to earn an honest living, and will unfortunately not be making it home tonight."

"The hearts of the people of Wisconsin go out to folks that were needlessly murdered at Molson Coors this afternoon," said Governor Tony Evers. "The first lady and I will be praying tonight together, for the lives that have been lost. It is a tragedy, yes, but it is a tragedy for the entire state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a strong state. What happens in Milwaukee impacts people all across the state, from Cornucopia to Kenosha. My role here tonight is to bring as many prayers as I can carry from the hearts of the people of Wisconsin for the losses that have occurred."

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PHOTO GALLERY

Miller Brewery employees 'shaken' amid 'intense situation'

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Here's a look at the alert employees received:

MillerCoors active shooter

One Miller Brewery employee who works in accounts receivable said they were placed under lockdown, and described an "intense situation." She said no one was being allowed to leave. She shared video with FOX6 -- showing multiple officers responding to the incident.

The wife of a Miller Brewery employee told FOX6 her husband witnessed one of the shootings. She said he was "very shaken up," and was driving home from work when FOX6 spoke with her. She told FOX6: "All he said so far was that he saw a guy get shot in the head about 15 ft from him. He is an Army Vet and is having difficulty processing this shooting."

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Related lockdowns

A Milwaukee Public Schools spokeswoman said Story School was also placed under lockdown. The spokeswoman said, "All students and staff are safe and in the school building." As of 3:45 p.m., they were not allowing parents to come to the school building to pick up students and were not allowing any students or staff to leave the building. In an update around 4 p.m., the spokeswoman said parents could pick up their children, and buses were available to take students home, but no students were being allowed to walk home.

Marquette University High School was briefly on lockdown. Some parents showed up, and individual students were escorted to their parents by staff. An all-clear was given before 4 p.m.

Officials with the Wisconsin Humane Society posted on social media they were placed under lockdown as a result of this incident. They asked that everyone avoid the area. The lockdown was lifted at WHS after 4 p.m.

WHS spokeswoman Angela Speed told FOX6 News clients, volunteers, and staff gathered together at the centermost part of the building during the lockdown, and all volunteers who were walking dogs were brought inside.

"I’m incredibly proud of our team, and we were able to get communication out to our staff, to our clients through our intercom system," said Speed. "We do have safety protocols. Fortunately, we’ve never had to use them before, so it was a first for us, and we’ll be evaluating it in the future -- that we can make any improvements, and also, on our social feeds, we did ask initially that all staff, volunteers, and clients remain on lockdown with us at the center of the building, but we did let the public know that we could not force them to stay. They could leave at their own risk, but we welcome them to stay, and we brought out some water and refreshments to make people comfortable."

Speed said it was the first lockdown at WHS.

"Your adrenaline just kicks in, fortunately, so you can have a fast response, but it is kind of scary, and several of our staff and volunteers are shaken up a little bit, but our hearts go out to the staff at Molson Coors," said Speed. "It’s just such a tragic situation, and we’re here to help in any way that we can."

Fast facts on Miller Brewery in Milwaukee

  • 8.5 million barrels of beer brewed here every year in Milwaukee.
  • 1,400 jobs in Milwaukee.
  • Founded in 1855 by Frederick Miller in Milwaukee.

Molson Coors Beverage Co. is the corporate parent company of MillerCoors. At the end of 2019, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Molson Coors was moving hundreds of corporate office jobs to Milwaukee, in addition to the 1,400 existing Milwaukee jobs. While the company announced a net “hundreds” of jobs would be added, they did say some jobs would be moved or lost here in Milwaukee due to the corporate restructuring.

Molson Coors' headquarters is in Denver, Colorado. The company employs about 17,750 workers internationally, according to Fortune.com.

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If you or someone you know was impacted by this incident -- resources are available through the City of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention.

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