Woonsocket Call

Accused in Aurora mass shooting had been convicted for beating girlfriend with a bat

- By MARK GUARINO

AURORA, Ill. — A disgruntle­d employee, who fatally shot five people and wounded five officers at an Illinois warehouse Friday, severely beat a woman years ago in a domestic violence incident that turned him into a felon – and should have kept him from buying a gun.

Two decades before police said Gary Martin, 45, opened fire at his co-workers, he was convicted of aggravated assault in Mississipp­i. Authoritie­s there said he regularly abused a former girlfriend, at one point, hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife.

“All I can remember is him hitting and kicking me, I can remember fighting and screaming for help. I remember him pushing my head into that brick wall outside the apartment and thinking that he was going to kill me,” the woman told police in Mississipp­i in 1994, according to court records.

The incident led to Martin’s arrest. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison, though records show he served less than three years. He later moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he spent 15 years working at a warehouse, where he was able to buy a gun despite his felony record, and where, on Friday afternoon, violence erupted again.

Authoritie­s in the Chicago suburb said Martin was called into a meeting at the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse. After he was told he was being fired, he began shooting, killing the three employees who were at the meeting and two others who were nearby, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters Saturday. Among the dead was an intern on his first day at work.

Investigat­ors have said little else that would explain the shooting spree, includ- ing why Martin was fired.

Police do not know if Martin knew of his terminatio­n and planned the shootout beforehand. But Dennis Rokop, a retired nuclear project manager, said that as a union employee, Martin was likely well aware that he was facing a terminatio­n meeting.

“You don’t just fire a union guy,” Rokop said. “You have to build a case against him. It’s a big drawn-out process.”

What police say they do know is that Martin showed up at the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse Friday armed with a Smith & Wesson handgun he was carrying illegally. Authoritie­s also revealed Saturday that in January 2014, Martin was able to obtain an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identifica­tion Card despite his felony record, which Ziman said would not necessaril­y have shown up on a criminal-background check conducted before he was issued the card.

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