Police say the fired worker who killed five people at a warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, was able to buy the gun he used because an initial background check didn’t catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi. (Feb. 16)
AURORA, Ill. – The victims of a gunman’s rampage at a manufacturing plant were memorialized in a prayer vigil Sunday as authorities investigated how the killer had a firearm almost five years after his permit was revoked.
The Aurora Prayer Coalition and area churches hosted the vigil at the Henry Pratt Co., where police said Gary Martin fatally shot five co-workers and wounded six other people, including five police officers, before being killed in a gunfight.
About 1,700 people gathered in snow and freezing drizzle at the site, heads bowed as clergy led them in prayer two days after what the Rev. Dan Haas described as “senseless killings.”
“All of these were relatively young people – many of them were very young people. We will never know their gifts and talents. Their lives were snuffed out way too short,” Haas said of the victims, who included a 21-year-old university student on his first day as an intern.
The Kane County Coroner’s Office said autopsies performed on three victims – Russell Beyer, 47, Trevor Wehner, 21, and Clayton Parks, 32 – determined a preliminary cause of their deaths as multiple gunshot wounds. An autopsy on Martin, 45, resulted in the same findings, the coroner’s office said.
The wounded officers ranged in age from 24 to 53. Aurora police said two remained hospitalized Sunday, and both were expected to survive.
At the vigil, Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin told the crowd: “When I thought about the words that I might share with our community and the families of the victims today, I thought to myself that just to simply offer condolences is not enough. It doesn’t measure the amount of pain that we feel, for the loss that we’ve experienced in this community.”
Martin, a 15-year employee, had been called into a meeting and was being fired when he began shooting, authorities said. Three people at the meeting, including human resources intern Wehner on his first day at work, were among the victims.
“I love you so much bro,” his brother Thomas wrote on Facebook. “I remember all the times we would fight but no matter what happened I still loved you. Rest easy big bro. I’m so proud of you. I’ll miss being that annoying little brother to you.”
Parks was the human resources manager and Beyer a mold operator. Also killed were plant manager Josh Pinkard and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez.
The company is owned by Mueller Water Products, and President Scott Hall pledged to “continue to work closely with all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved. We are grateful to them for their swift and tremendous response efforts.”
Martin had his gun permit revoked in 2014 after a background check turned up a felony conviction in Mississippi, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said.
“He was not supposed to be in possession of a gun,” Ziman said.
Martin was issued a firearms ID in January 2014 and applied to purchase a Smith & Wesson handgun from an Aurora gun dealer two months later. Days later, when Martin applied for a conceal carry permit, it was discovered he had a felony conviction in 1995 for aggravated assault in Mississippi.
Martin’s conceal carry permit was rejected, and his firearms ID was revoked by Illinois State Police.
Ziman said state police should have sent Martin a letter informing him that he was illegally in possession of a firearm and needed to turn in his weapon. Police are trying to determine whether that letter was sent and why the gun was never turned in.
In addition to the Mississippi conviction, Martin had been arrested six times by Aurora police, including once in 2008 for a domestic matter. He was arrested in 2017 in nearby Oswego for disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.
Bacon reported from Mclean, Va. Contributing: The Associated Press
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