Gary Martin, who shot five co-workers to death and wounded five police officers at an Aurora, Illinois manufacturing company, was a disgruntled factory worker with a violent felony history who had just lost his job.
“We know he was a 15-year veteran and information that we have indicates that he was being terminated today,” Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman confirmed. She revealed that Martin opened fire at the termination meeting. All of the victims were male employees and several of them were at that meeting. ABC 7 reported that Martin worked as an assembler at Henry Pratt Company, where the shooting broke out. Police released this mugshot of Martin:
Martin’s family told local reporters that he was laid off, and Ziman said she didn’t know why Martin was being fired or whether he had planned the mass shooting in advance. However, she said he was an employee until the day of the shooting.
The suspect was killed by police at the scene. The deceased victims were identified as Clayton Parks, Trevor Wehner, Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, and Josh Pinkard. The weapon was a Smith & Wesson handgun. You can read tributes to the victims here. They include a plant manager, grandfather, young fathers, and a college intern on his first day.
The news of another mass shooting came right as a new debate over gun control was erupting because President Donald Trump announced a national emergency over the border wall (some Democrats had warned a Democratic president could use the same powers to institute gun control measures.) The mass shooting in Aurora also came a day after the first anniversary of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. However, felons can’t legally possess firearms in Illinois.
Regarding the weapon using in the mass shooting: Ziman revealed that Martin originally was granted an Illinois firearms owner’s identification card, called a FOID, that allowed him to purchase the gun in January 2014. On March 6, 2014, he applied to purchase the weapon used in the shooting from a local gun dealer in Aurora. On March 11, 2014, he took possession of the handgun. On March 16, 2014, he applied for a concealed carry permit at an unknown location. During the fingerprinting and background process, it was discovered that he had an aggravated assault felony conviction in Mississippi from 1995. The conviction would not “necessarily have shown up on a background check conducted for a FOID card,” said the chief, without explaining why.
The shooter’s FOID card was then revoked. Thus, Ziman said that Martin was not legally supposed to possess the firearm at the time of the mass shooting.
“To the families of the victims here in Aurora, there are no words… may the memory of those we lost today be a blessing,” the governor of Illinois said in a news conference, praising the “brave law enforcement officers who continue to run toward danger.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Gunman, Whose Mother Says Was ‘Stressed Out,’ Fired on Arriving Police, Who Found Five Dead Inside the Building
The gunman’s mother spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times and described Gary Martin as “stressed out” before the mass shooting. “He was way too stressed out,” she said, according to the newspaper, confirming her son was dead.
His mother, Felicia Martin, told WGN-TV: “My heart goes out to all the victims and their families.”
“Quiet. Keeps to himself,” said Jennifer White, who lived nearby, of the gunman. “He kept to himself. Normal guy. He was pretty nice. It was a surprise.” She said he lived alone and was “always by himself…which is kinda weird.” The shooter lived at Acorn Woods Condominiums in Aurora. She told CBS Chicago that he had drones and “would wave at us or stare at us. Kinda creepy.”
The Aurora police chief named the gunman as Martin, 45, and said that police received multiple calls for an active shooter around 1:24 p.m. from what she described as a “manufacturing warehouse.” She said the gunman used a handgun. She called the officers “true heroes,” saying they saved lives. “But we still lost lives today… those people did not deserve this.”
The chief gave these details about the wounded officers, and she said they all suffered non life-threatening wounds.
Officer 1, male, 39-years-old, 13 years of service. Gunshot wound to lower extremity, stable condition.
Officer 2, male 52, 25 years of service. Gunshot wound to upper extremity. Will be released from hospital.
Officer 3, male, 52, 24 years of service. Gunshot wound to lower extremity. Treated and released.
Officer 4, male 53, 30 years of service. Gunshot wound to lower extremity. Treated at area hospital.
Officer 5, male, 25, just under four years of service. Shrapnel wounds to upper extremity. Stable condition.
Officer 6, male, 23, 2 years experience. Minor injury while responding to the incident not related to gunfire.
She gave these additional details about the deceased victims:
Clayton Parks, Elgin Il. Human resource manager at Henry Pratt.
Trevor Wehner, DeKalb, Il. Human resource intern and student at Northern Illinois University.
Russell Beyer, Yorkville, Il. Mold operator at Henry Pratt.
Vicente Juarez, Oswego, Il. Stockroom attendant and forklift operator at Henry Pratt.
Josh Pinkard, Oswego, Il. Plant manager, Henry Pratt.
Chief Ziman said responding officers were “fired upon immediately. Two of the initial four officers entering the building were shot.” Other responding officers were also then shot. She said five officers were shot in the first five minutes but did not suffer life-threatening wounds. Officers on the scene then located victims inside the building, she said, finding five people deceased. A sixth civilian was also wounded. In addition, a sixth officer suffered a knee injury. “The officers were going in as teams,” she said. It took 90 minutes to search the vast building.
Martin “fired upon the officers as they arrived,” she said, adding that it took police four minutes to respond to the 911 calls that flooded in.
“The shooter is identified as Gary Martin. He is a 45-year-old man and we believe he was an employee of the company. At this time we aren’t sure of the motive of this act of violence,” said the police chief. She added, to the officers wounded, “Thank you for your selfless act. Thank you for running towards gunfire and putting your lives in danger to protect those inside the business. My heart goes out to victims and their families who simply went to work today like any other day. We offer our sincere condolences, and, as the facts of this tragedy unfold, we will provide information and attempt to make sense of it.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that the five found dead did not include the gunman, whose death brings the tally to six. Authorities searched his home, looking for any devices, but they didn’t find anything there, according to the police chief.
The injured officers were all in stable condition. The conditions of other people wounded were not known.
“We have an active shooter incident at 641 Archer Av. This is an active scene. Please avoid the area,” Aurora police wrote early on.
Police later wrote, “Active Shooter Incident has been secured. Shooter is no longer a threat to the area. Continued police presence will remain as investigation continues. Parents please contact your local school districts for dismissal plan.”
2. Gary Martin Worked as a Valve Assembler at the Plant & Once Stabbed a Woman in Mississippi
The shooting broke out at the 200-worker Henry Pratt Company, a manufacturing firm, at 401 S. Highland. The chief said the plant is located in a 29,000-square foot building.
The company is a valve manufacturer. The Chicago Tribune says it was founded in 1901, makes valves, and has plants in two other states.
According to a LinkedIn page, Gary Martin worked as a “large valve assembler at Henry Pratt.” One person endorsed Martin for the skills of engineering and manufacturing on his LinkedIn page.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Gary Martin had a serious violent criminal history in Mississippi, where he was convicted for stabbing a woman. In Illinois, his offenses were more minor, including illegally altering car speakers and squealing his tires, the Sun Times reported. He was also sued by a landlord.
ABC 7’s Mark Rivera also confirmed, “Police are now at gunman Gary Martin’s apartment. Martin has violent past. 1995 conviction for aggravated felony assault in Mississippi.” The station reported that Martin was a felon.
Authorities say he had six prior arrests by the Aurora police, including for traffic and domestic battery. According to Ziman, Martin’s last arrest in Aurora was in 2008 for violating an order of protection. His last arrest was in Oswego, Illinois in 2017 for criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct.
3. The Shooter Carried a Pistol With Laser Sight & Fired Indiscriminately, According to a Witness
John Probst told ABC 7 the gunman was a co-worker carrying a pistol with laser sight. He told the television station the gunman fired indiscriminately at people.
“One of the guys was up in the office, he said this person was shootin’, and, he come running down and he was bleeding pretty bad, and the next thing you know he was walking back and forth, I heard more shots, and we just left the building,” Probst said to ABC 7.
“What I saw was the guy running down the aisle with a pistol with a laser on it,” he said, according to the LA Times.
The Aurora, Colorado police wrote on Twitter, “THE #ACTIVESHOOTER IS IN AURORA ILLINOIS, NOT IN OUR AURORA COLORADO. We hope everyone will be okay, and the situation is resolved quickly for all involved. Please follow @AuroraPoliceIL for information on that incident.”
At 3 p.m. the City of Aurora, Illinois announced an “EMERGENCY UPDATE.”
“THE SHOOTER HAS BEEN APPREHENDED! The area is still on lock down!” the city wrote.
“He seemed like a nice person,” a woman who knew the gunman named Jaclyn White told the news media. She described herself as “frightening, scared, and nervous at the same time.”
4. Gary Martin Was Laid Off Two Weeks Before the Shooting, Reports Say
WBEZ-TV criminal justice reporter Patrick Smith reported that he had spoken with the sister of Gary Martin and learned the shooter had lost his job.
“I just spoke with Tameka Martin who said she is sister of the Aurora shooter, Gary Martin. She was here at Aurora Police Department with other family to be briefed by police. Takeka Martin said her brother lost his job about two weeks ago and was very upset,” he wrote on Twitter.
The shooter’s mother told the same thing to the Sun Times. However, the witness, Probst, said the gunman worked “in assembly” for about 15 years and was at work on Friday like normal, according to the Sun Times. His sister said Martin worked at the plant for more like 20 years.
In the news conference, authorities did not provide a motive for the mass shooting.
According to CNN, local hospitals had started to receive the wounded. Mercy Medical Center and Rush Copley Medical Center were among those confirming they had patients from the mass shooting situation.
Rush Copley wrote on Twitter, “Rush Copley is assisting those involved in the active shooter incident in Aurora. The hospital has received two patients who are being treated for non-life threatening injuries.”
5. Nearby Schools Went Into Lockdown & the Governor Called the Act ‘Evil’
The mass shooting caused a frightening few hours for those in the area.
Even though the shooting unfolded at a manufacturing company, local schools went into lockdown. “Once we have been given the all clear we will dismiss in 40-minute intervals. Students are safe and secure in our buildings, please be patient as we work through this difficult situation,” West Aurora School District 129 reported on its website.
“There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams, their futures,” said Governor JB Pritzker at the first news conference after the mass shooting.
“Great job by law enforcement in Aurora, Illinois. Heartfelt condolences to all of the victims and their families. America is with you,” President Trump tweeted.