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‘Pretty intense:’ Employees, family members try to understand gravity of Miller Brewery shooting

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MILWAUKEE -- With more than 1,000 people working at the Miller Brewery at the time of the shooting incident on Wednesday, Feb. 26, the impact of the mass shooting was widespread.

Employees of the brewery were the first to understand the gravity of the situation confronting them. They received multiple text messages indicating there was a critical incident involving an active shooter on the brewery campus -- and to get to a safe place.

MillerCoors active shooter

After hearing what played out in light of those text messages, the primary emotion from people was panic and confusion. This, as everyone was just trying to find out who was and was not accounted for.

A woman named Rebecca Pier Barrington told FOX6 News her husband, an employee at the brewery, witnessed one of the shootings. He told her during the lockdown that he witnessed a man get shot in the head just 15 feet away from him. Pier Barrington said her husband was understandably very shaken. She said he's an Army veteran -- having a difficult time processing the shooting. One of the victims killed, he told Pier Barrington, was his friend.

Another employee, Kristin Ratliff, who works in accounts receivable told FOX6 News that she first learned about the critical situation via an email notification. Ratliff said the alert told employees to remain calm. Ratliff said she ran to the window to see police surrounding the Miller campus.

"The building I'm in, we're in an office support building that's actually on the north side of campus -- and we received word that the shooter was around the south packaging building which is closer to the brewery," Ratliff said. "I'm fine. I generally remain calm in these situations. A few other people panicked a little bit. Maybe gone down to a different floor where the doors lock. Some of us are still at our desks doing work...but it's pretty intense."

Another employee told FOX6 News he was on the phone with his loved ones assuring them that he was OK.He saw his co-workers' bodies laying on the ground.

Police said five employees were killed. The shooter, a Milwaukee man, 51, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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Family members of employees at the Miller Brewery

Milwaukee police asked any family members of Miller employees headed to the shooting scene to head to 35th and Juneau -- which is Harley-Davidson's property. There, those family members were reunited.

Crisis workers were on hand all of Wednesday afternoon and evening -- to help anyone in need. A Salvation Army chaplain was on hand inside of a Milwaukee County Transit System bus to field questions for those looking for answers. Harley-Davidson employees who spoke with FOX6 News at the site say their prayers and thoughts are with their neighbors at Miller Brewery.

"They just said don't leave the building, stay away from the windows, just stay contained. They didn't get too directional about what to do in the building, just not to venture out," said Shirley Warnock, Harley-Davidson employee. "I was in a meeting room with some other coworkers and we were all saying, 'Oh my gosh, that could be us, it's right there.' And then family started calling our phones as well."

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