MILWAUKEE – In one of the worst shootings in Wisconsin history, five people were killed by a gunman during a rampage on the Milwaukee campus of Molson Coors on Wednesday afternoon.
The gunman died by suicide, bringing the total of known dead so far to six. Initial accounts from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicated at least seven had died, but that number has since been clarified.
The suspect was a 51-year-old Milwaukee man who died from a fatal gunshot wound, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said. A statement from Molson Coors officials said the gunman was “an active brewery employee.”
Morales said around 6:45 p.m. that there were more than 20 buildings that needed to be secured on the Molson Coors campus, known to many locals as “the old Miller brewery.”
A checkpoint process for employees would take several hours to complete, he estimated.
Morales said officials believed the threat was contained and there was no threat to the public, although it was an “active and fluid scene.”
President Donald Trump addressed the shooting at a 6:30 p.m. ET press conference Wednesday: “Our hearts break for them and their loved ones. We send our condolences. … It’s a terrible thing, terrible thing. So our hearts go out to the people of Wisconsin, and to the families.”
Employees were notified by email that an active shooter was in or near the second-floor stairwell of the sprawling factory’s Building 4. Police responded at 2:11 p.m.
Milwaukee police said in a Tweet at 4:37 p.m. that there was “no active threat.”
The scene was chaotic two hours after the initial report. Live video showed an officer in body armor getting an assault rifle out of a car. Canines were on the scene. Helicopters hovered near the sprawling complex, which includes corporate offices and brewing facilities.
“The vile and heinous deadly violence that was perpetrated at the brewery complex today has no place in our society and makes no sense,” Ald. 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 Beverage Co. was formerly known as MillerCoors, before a 2019 name change. It is part of a beer-brewing empire that is one of the largest in the world.
James Boyles spoke with the Journal Sentinel. He said his wife, Lasonya Ragdales, works at Molson Coors in the claims department. She has been told that there is an active shooter and she is locked in a room with co-workers. She was texting him from inside the building.
Paramedic units from Milwaukee and West Allis were dispatched to the scene along with officers from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, Marquette University Police Department and the U.S. Marshals. Officials with the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene.
Multiple nearby schools were locked down.
At Woodlands School Andre Kimbrough said his son was still inside the building. Kimbrough said he, along with many other parents, went to pick up their children at the end of school around 3:15 p.m. but got a call from school officials about the lockdown. Many parents were circling the block waiting for an all-clear.
Kimbrough said he could see a “stream of police cars,” ambulances and fire trucks. He felt good that the kids were safe inside.
“I’m more worried about how they feel,” Kimbrough said. “They must be kind of freaking out.”
Molson Coors Beverage Co., which operates MillerCoors, on Oct. 30 announced plans to close a Denver office and relocate hundreds of corporate support jobs to the Milwaukee office, 3939 W. Highland Blvd.
The brewer now has 610 jobs at the Milwaukee office. Corporate functions based there include human resources, financing and information technology. Also, the main brewery on West State Street and a smaller, recently expanded brewery together have 750 jobs.
The “Miller Valley” campus includes a 160-year-old brewery, underground caves, a Bavarian-style inn and a seasonal outdoor beer garden.
The restructuring announced last fall is designed to cut costs, with 400 to 500 jobs being eliminated throughout Molson Coors. The consolidation also will bring together employees in central locations so they can better work together.
Molson Coors has seen continuing sales declines as it faces steadily increasing competition from craft brewers, as well as other makers of alcoholic drinks. Its recent name change, from Molson Coors Brewing Co., reflects increased investment in cider, seltzer and other alcoholic drinks.
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.
Joe Taschler, Tom Daykin, Jordyn Noennig, Ricardo Torres, Sarah Hauer, John Steppe and Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel staff. Grace Hauck and Joel Shannon reported for USA TODAY.