A person opened fire in one of the headquarters’ main buildings, according to reports. Picture: AP
A person opened fire in one of the headquarters’ main buildings, according to reports. Picture: AP

'It's horrible': US rocked by brewery shooting attack

 

Five people have been killed in an "horrific" mass shooting at the headquarters of a major beer brand in the American state of Wisconsin, perpetrated by a disgruntled ex-employee.

Heavily armed police swarmed the sprawling Molson Coors Brewing Company campus in Milwaukee after the man opened fire at about 2pm local time (7am AEDT).

The several hundred employees received panicked text message and email alerts urging them to hide as the attacker - who had been fired from his job earlier that day - shot at people.

"Find a safe place, active shooter on campus," one of the messages read.

The 51-year-old gunman had been dismissed earlier in the day and "stolen the name tag" of a co-worker in order to gain entry to a packaging warehouse.

He then opened fire with a firearm equipped with a silencer, around the time that a shift change of brewing workers was taking place.

Milwaukee Police chief Alfonso Morales said there were five victims, in what is one of the worst mass shootings in Wisconsin history. The gunman also died by suicide.

Police responding to an active shooter situation in Milwaukee in the US state of Wisconsin.Source:Fox News
Police responding to an active shooter situation in Milwaukee in the US state of Wisconsin.Source:Fox News
Authorities respond to an active shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing campus in Milwaukee. Picture: AP
Authorities respond to an active shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing campus in Milwaukee. Picture: AP

Earlier, the city's Mayor Tom Barrett was visibly shocked as he told reporters that "multiple" people were killed in the attack.

"It is a horrible, horrible day for the employees here," Mr Barrett said in a press conference. "It's a very rough day for anyone who is close to this situation."

Within moments of the first frantic calls to authorities at about 2.18pm, there was a heavy police presence in the area, along with fire trucks and ambulances.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was also on the scene and live video showed armour-clad officers with assault weapons.

Despite the presence, it took officers more than two hours to sweep the complex and surrounding streets to ensure there were no other active threats.

The Molson Coors headquarters is a mammoth facility including a mix of corporate offices and brewing facilities. At least 600 people work there.

One worker who was arriving to start her shift as a machine operator told The Washington Post that she received a text message about the shooting.

"I'm feeling horrible," she said from the scene. "These are people we've worked with for years. They're like family. We spend more time with them than we do at home."

Milwaukee Police and Milwaukee Fire Department personnel respond to reports of an active shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus in Milwaukee. Picture: AP
Milwaukee Police and Milwaukee Fire Department personnel respond to reports of an active shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus in Milwaukee. Picture: AP

 

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 building and told her husband that there was an active shooter and she was locked in a room with a number of co-workers, the newspaper reported.

A school on the same street was placed in lockdown and students hid in classrooms with the doors barricaded.

One parent, Natasha Williams, told CBS Chicago that she was among many trying to collect their kids from the school when the incident unfolded.

"They told me to go to the coat closet to hide, but then, when it was a code yellow, they told me to go in the auditorium, and wait for our buses and our mums," her son Mario told the outlet.

WISN-TV reported that a Molson Coors employee received an email about an active shooter near one of the buildings. Picture: AP
WISN-TV reported that a Molson Coors employee received an email about an active shooter near one of the buildings. Picture: AP

 

US President Donald Trump spoke about the incident during a press conference at The White House, extending his condolences to the victims and their families.

"Earlier today, a wicked murderer opened fire at a Molson Coors brewing company plant, taking the lives of (several) people," Mr Trump said.

"Our hearts break for them and their loved ones."

Reaction to the tragedy was swift, with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - who survived being shot in the head in 2011, said she was "absolutely heartbroken".

"And I'm fed up this keeps happening when we know there are laws that would save lives," Ms Giffords said in a tweet.

"The House passed a universal background checks bill one year ago tomorrow. It has bipartisan support. Yet Trump and (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell won't even try to pass it.

"Every day they fail to act is a day we fail to protect our schools, workplaces, and communities."

Senator for Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin thanked emergency services for their swift response and bravery.

"Gun violence has taken too many lives in Milwaukee and the mass shooting today is heartbreaking," Senator Baldwin tweeted.

"The vile and heinous deadly violence that was perpetrated at the brewery complex today has no place in our society and makes no sense," local politician Russell Stamper said in a statement.

"The cold disregard for human lives and the lack of value for human life that was shown must be categorically denounced across Milwaukee, across Wisconsin and throughout our nation."

Molson Coors chief executive officer Gavin Hattersley was in the middle of a company conference in Texas when he abruptly announced he was leaving.

Mr Hattersley is on his way back to Milwaukee now, a source told CNN.

 

The complex is commonly known in the Milwaukee area as "Miller Valley" - a reference to the Miller Brewing Company, which is now part of Molson Coors.

Miller Valley features a 160-year-old brewery, with a packaging centre that fills thousands of cans and bottles every minute and a distribution centre the size of five football fields.

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.

- with wires



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