Police: Gunman likely knew job in jeopardy
Illinois man with troubled history began shooting after his firing
AURORA, Ill. — The man who gunned down five coworkers and wounded a sixth at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse before shooting and wounding five police officers brought his gun to a meeting in which he was going to be fired, authorities said Saturday.
Because Gary Martin brought his gun to Friday’s meeting at the sprawling Henry Pratt Co. warehouse in Aurora, he likely knew he might be about to lose his job, police Chief Kristen Ziman said at a news conference.
Martin’s family said he was “stressed” recently, but authorities could not say why he was being fired after working at the warehouse for 15 years. That was just one of many questions that remained Saturday.
Ziman said as soon as he was fired, he pulled his handgun and began shooting. Three of the five coworkers he killed were in the room with him and the other two were just outside, she said.
Martin had a laser sight on his handgun, and “multiple spent magazines” were found in the warehouse, Ziman said.
Frantic calls to 911 started pouring in from frightened workers at 1:24 p.m. CST Friday and officers arrived at the scene within four minutes, authorities said. Martin fired on the officers when they arrived, striking one outside and another near the building’s entrance. The other three wounded officers were shot inside the building. None of their wounds are considered life-threatening, Ziman said Saturday.
All of the officers who were wounded were shot within the first five minutes of police arriving at the scene, authorities said. After that flurry of shots and with officers from throughout the region streaming in to help, Martin ran and hid inside the 29,000-square-foot building.
Police used an armored rescue vehicle called a Bearcat to enter the building, Aurora police Lt. Rick Robertson said. Teams of officers then began to search the building, finding Martin hiding in the back about an hour later, he said.
“He was probably waiting for us to get to him there,” Robertson said. “It was just a very short gunfight and it was over, so he was basically in the back waiting for us and fired upon us and our officers fired.”
Police identified the slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks, of Elgin; plant manager Josh Pinkard, of Oswego; mold operator Russell Beyer, of Yorkville; stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez, of Oswego; and human resources intern and Northern Illinois University student Trevor Wehner, who lived in DeKalb and grew up in Sheridan.
It was Wehner’s first day on the job, his uncle Jay Wehner said. Trevor Wehner, 21, was on the dean’s list at NIU’s College of Business and was on track to graduate in May with a degree in human resource management.
Parks was a 2014 graduate of NIU’s business college, school President Lisa Freeman said.
The worker who was shot but survived was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, authorities said. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury during the search of the building.
Martin had been arrested six times in Aurora over the years, including for domestic battery, Ziman said.
He was able to buy the Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun he used in the attack because an initial background check didn’t catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi, the chief said. Martin was issued a firearm owner’s identification card in January of 2014 after he passed the initial background check and he bought the gun that March 11.
It wasn’t until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later and went through a more rigorous check that uses digital fingerprinting that his 1995 felony conviction in Mississippi for aggravated battery was flagged and his firearm owner’s ID card was revoked, she said. Once his card was revoked, he could no longer legally have a gun.
A company background check did not turn up the 1995 conviction, said Scott Hall, president and CEO of Mueller Water Products Inc, which owns Henry Pratt.
The shooting shocked the city of 200,000, which is about 40 miles west of Chicago.
“You think you know people but you don’t,” said Mary McKnight, who lived next door to Martin in Acorn Woods Condominiums, less than 2 miles from the plant.
A bullet lies on the ice a few feet from where crosses were placed Saturday near the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora.