MILWAUKEE -- One week after a Molson Coors employee gunned down five of his co-workers, an investigation continued Wednesday, March 4 into a possible motive behind the shooting rampage, but company officials confirmed Tuesday the shooter was the target of racial harassment during his time with the company. Milwaukee police on Wednesday afternoon said a preliminary investigation revealed "neither race nor racism has been identified as a factor."
Employees had the option to return to work if ready on Monday, but operations remained on hold at Miller Brewery Wednesday, with speculation growing over what prompted an employee to open fire at the campus near 41st Street and State Street on Feb. 26, killing Dale Hudson, Gene Levshetz, Jesus Valle, Jr., Dana Walk, and Trevor Wetselaar before he died by suicide.
"Some of the rumors have validity," said Adam Collins, Molson Coors' spokesman on Tuesday. "Some do not. Some are not true."
Collins said Tuesday, "The police have asked us not to speculate about what had precipitated before the shooting, so I want to be respectful of that."
While Collins declined to comment on a possible motive Tuesday, he did confirm that in 2015, someone placed a noose on the locker of the African American gunman.
"The employee was not working that day," said Collins. "It was an off day. HR brought it to his attention. We investigated it fully. We looked at camera angles to understand who may have placed it there... taking action that way. It was inconclusive, unfortunately."
It wasn't clear Wednesday whether the noose was connected to the shooting.
Milwaukee police issued this statement to FOX6 News late Wednesday afternoon:
"The Milwaukee Police Department is aware of various claims regarding the motive of the suspect involved in the recent Molson Coors shooting incident on February 26, 2020. Various sources have reported that the suspect’s actions were racially motivated and that he was directly impacted by racism while working for the company."
"Milwaukee Police detectives have interviewed several witnesses regarding the suspect’s actions and statements leading up to the incident. As a result of the preliminary investigation, neither race nor racism has been identified as a factor in this incident. This investigation remains ongoing.
Based upon the preliminary investigation, the Milwaukee Police Department is not aware of any of the victims targeted in the mass shooting being involved in any inappropriate or racist behavior toward the suspect. Therefore, the narrative of retaliation being the suspect’s motive has not been substantiated."
"Additional information regarding this incident will be available once the investigation concludes. Until then, it is imperative to wait for the facts of the investigation to be released rather than speculating and generating a false narrative that could negatively impact the lives of the family members of the victims and of the suspect, as well as the employees of Molson Coors."
"We continue to send our prayers to all of the families involved in this tragic incident as they grieve their loved ones."
"It's sad that it had to happen, but in the same case, I'm not surprised," said Raylynne Clayborn, former employee.
Clayborn told FOX6 he worked at Miller Brewery from 2005 to 2018 until he was terminated for what he described as attendance issues. A black man, Clayborn said he, too, was subjected to racism on the job.
"I just experienced the pictures of the black cartoons with them eating watermelons posted on walls, and I seen with my eyes the word (expletive) written in bathroom stalls," said Clayborn.
Clayborn said he ultimately filed a discrimination complaint against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but nothing came of it.
"The environment there was toxic," said Clayborn.
Records show the gunman never filed a lawsuit or any complaints against the company.
As for the victims, as of Wednesday, police and brewery officials did not comment on whether they were targeted by the shooter.
A GoFundMe.com account set up for the victims' families eclipsed $1 million raised on Wednesday.
About the victims
Dale Hudson left behind a wife. He was a 2001 graduate of MATC -- and a long-time member of IBEW 494.
Gene Levshetz was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. According to his obituary, Levshetz was a kind, caring, and giving person who always put his family's needs before his own. The Levshetz family issued the following statement:
"The Levshetz family is devastated by the loss of their deeply loved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle. We appreciate the outpouring of support from friends and family and respectfully ask for privacy as we try to come to terms with this unimaginable loss."
Jesus Valle leaves behind a wife, two young children, and many family members. FOX6 News spoke with Valle's cousin who shared some of his favorite memories -- and a message to the community.
Dana Walk was also a loving husband and father of three. His union described Walk as an avid fisherman and a devout journeyman.
Trevor Wetselaar was a loving husband, decorated Navy veteran, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Help for the victims' families
Molson Coors established a GoFundMe dedicated to the family members of those lost in Wednesday's tragedy, donating $500,000 to victims' families. That puts the Miller Valley Survivors Fund halfway to its goal of $1,000,000.
If you are interested in donating to the Miller Valley Survivors Fund, CLICK HERE.
Resources and support
- Milwaukee County 24 Hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 414-257-7222
- Milwaukee Child Mobile Crisis and Trauma Response Team: 414-257-7621
- National Crisis Text Line: text HOPELINE to 741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255.
- City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention: www.milwaukee.gov/staysafe