An employee opened fire on February 26 at one of the nation’s largest breweries, kiIIing five fellow workers before taking his own life in one of the worst mass shootings in Wisconsin history.
The attack occurred at the sprawling campus that includes a mix of corporate offices and brewing facilities. The complex is widely known as “Miller Valley” in reference to the Miller Brewing Company that is now part of Molson Coors. Unconfirmed social media sources later revealed the identity of the alleged gunman as Anthony Ferrill, saying he had worked at the brewery for over twenty years.
“It is a horrible, horrible day for the employees here. It’s a very rough day for anyone who is close to this situation,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “This is an unspeakable tragedy for our city. There were five individuals who went to work today, just like we all go to work. They thought they were going to work and then would return to their families. They didn’t, and they tragically never will.”
Police Chief Alfonso Morales identified the gunman as a 51-year-old Milwaukee man who was a recently fired employee. He returned to the facility in the 4000 block of West State Street and opened fire.
“It’s a terrible day for Milwaukeeans,” said Chief Morales. “The victims all worked at Molson Coors, and no members of the general public were involved.”
Chief Morales said authorities believed the shooter operated alone and that the threat was over. None of the victims were publicly identified because police were still contacting relatives. No one was wounded beyond those who were kiIIed. Officers were working to clear the more than 20 buildings in the complex where more than 1,000 people work.
“Our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were senselessly taken today, all of the folks and workers at Molson Coors, and the entire Milwaukee community as we grapple with yet another act of gun violence that will have long-lasting consequences for this community and our state,” said Governor Tony Evers.
“Miller Valley” features a 160-year-old brewery, with a packaging center that fills thousands of cans and bottles every minute and a distribution center the size of five football fields. A massive red Miller sign towers over the complex and is a well-known symbol in Milwaukee, where beer and brewing are intertwined in the city’s history.
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.
“I join my colleagues, the residents of the 15th Aldermanic District and the entire City of Milwaukee family in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of today’s horrific mass workplace shooting at Molson Coors. If you can take a moment, please offer comfort to the loved ones of the victims, and also offer prayers and support for the workers of Molson Coors. The coming days and weeks ahead will be unimaginably challenging for them. The vile and heinous deadly violence that was perpetrated at the brewery complex today has no place in our society and makes no sense. 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. We must work diligently each day to value our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and even those we do not always see eye to eye with. We must look for the human value, the ties that bind us and the good and precious human spirit that each of us possesses. We must all try to keep alive the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said so poignantly: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.'”
– Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II
“The hearts of every Wisconsinite are heavy as we mourn those who lost their lives today in Milwaukee. These are men and women who came to work every day, proud to work for a hometown company like Molson Coors. I ask everyone to keep these men and women, their families, friends and everyone at Molson Coors in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
– Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele
“This is gut-wrenching. My heart goes out to Molson Coors employees, their families, and the entire Milwaukee community. The DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation is on the scene and will continue assisting local law enforcement with whatever they need.”
– Attorney General Josh Kaul
“Acts of violence like this shake our communities to their core. We all deserve to feel safe at home, at work, and in our community. Molson Coors is a part of our community and we are a part of theirs. They have been a part of Milwaukee’s near west side for over 100 years. We grieve over the loss of life and pledge to work to build the safest community we can. We are grateful for all that Molson Coors has done in conjunction with the Near Westside Partners to bring our neighborhoods together.”
– State Senator LaTonya Johnson and State Representative Evan Goyke
Molson Coors announced in October that it planned to close a Denver office as part of a restructuring to eliminate 400 to 500 jobs. The reorganization was to benefit Milwaukee, which was expected to see hundreds of corporate and support jobs relocated there. Molson Coors announced that the campus would stay closed for the rest of the week.
“We’re closing our Milwaukee office for the remainder of the week and the Milwaukee Brewery will remain shut down for the time being as well, to ensure our people have time to cope with this tragic event,” said Gavin Hattersley, Molson Coors CEO. “We ask that everyone be respectful of how our colleagues in Milwaukee are feeling during this incredibly difficult time and do what you can to be supportive.”
Before the February 26 shooting, there had been three mass kiIIings nationwide in 2020, with 12 total victims. All have been shootings. In 2019, there were 44 mass kiIIings, with 224 total victims.
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 kiIIed 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 kiIIed and four wounded at a church service in Brookfield, a Milwaukee suburb. The shooter kiIIed himself.
“While some of the details of this afternoon’s tragic shooting at the Molson Coors campus are still hazy, one thing continues to be absolutely clear: it is past time to take real, decisive action in order to protect our communities from the scourge of gun violence. Because of the actions of one individual with irresponsibly easy access to a firearm, at least six Wisconsin families are mourning unfathomable losses, and an entire community has been traumatized. My heart goes out to all of the victims and their families, and they and everyone affected by the events of this afternoon are in my prayers. But in times like this, thoughts and prayers are not – and never have been – enough. In the past 16 years, Wisconsin communities have suffered ten mass shootings, and countless other fatal and near-fatal incidents involving firearms. Time and again, public opinion polling shows that Wisconsinites are in favor of common sense gun reform legislation. We have committed community groups like Moms Demand Action and the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort who have organized their communities and continue to keep these issues at the forefront. We have a governor who specifically called a special session of the Legislature this session in order to address gun violence. And yet, time and again, bought-and-paid-for Republican politicians in this state do everything they possibly can to block simple and popular reform measures from making their way through the political process, all while more and more Wisconsinites die as a direct result of their antipathy and inaction. So today, I have one question for any politician who continues to block these life-saving reforms: how many NRA dollars are Wisconsin lives worth?”
– State Representative Jonathan Brostoff
Law enforcement officials have yet to formally release the shooter’s identity, but a series of conversations were posted across social media based on reporting from journalist Matthew Keys who quoted a “law enforcement source.” The unconfirmed statements gave some background information about Ferrill’s work history and his employment situation as an African American, without providing evidence.
“The shooter at Millers Coors was reported to suffer racial discrimination and harassment from white co-workers. He recently filed a civil lawsuit against Miller Coors’s racist work environment. The racist white co-workers had hung a hangman noose on his locker. He was rehired after the lawsuit five years ago. The white racist male harassment continue when he returned to work at Miller Coors. The racist white co-workers this time humiliated the 51-year-old African American male by pasting spade cards on his work locker and making his workday unbearable with white male racist antics. The Brother evidently was forced over the edge of sanity to make a violent act to end Miller Coors workforce racist harassment. Miller Coors has a long history of tolerating its white brewery worker racist behavior and acts against Black brewery workers.”
– Tony Muhammad, Milwaukee resident