Aurora, Ill., gunman was fired before deadly shooting, police say

Yellow crime tape is stretched across a parking lot after a shooting at the Henry Pratt Company office in Aurora, Ill., on Friday night. Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA

Feb. 16 (UPI) — The gunman who shot and killed five people at a valve manufacturer in Aurora, Ill., opened fire at a meeting during which he was terminated, police said Saturday.

Gary Martin, a 15-year employee of the Henry Pratt Co., about 45 miles west of Chicago, died Friday during a shootout with police after he killed his colleagues.

Witnesses said Martin, 45, reported to work Friday afternoon and attended a meeting in which he was fired, Aurora police Chief Kristen Ziman said at a news conference Saturday.

He opened fire in the warehouse, killing three people at the meeting, Clayton Parks, a human resources manager; Trevor Wehner, a human resources intern; and Josh Pinjar, a plant manager.

The other two victims, Russell Beyer, a mold operator, and Vicente Juarez, a stock room attendant and forklift operator, were in the general area, Ziman said.

Also injured were six police officers ranging in age from from 23 to 53 years old, including five who were shot and one who sustained a knee injury. All of the police officers are “recovering and are under the care of physicians in the Chicago metro area,” Ziman said.

Another employee who was shot was being treated at a local hospital and was expected to recover.

Martin did not have a permit for a weapon, including for the Smith and Wesson 40 used in the shooting.

Martin was issued an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification Card in January 2014. During the fingerprinting and background process, Martin’s conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi in 1995, in which he served 2 1/2 years in prison, was discovered and his concealed carry application was denied.

Martin had six other arrests by the city police department, including for domestic violence-related issues.

The gunman was an assembly man at the plant, WLS-TV in Chicago reported.

During the shooting, which took 90 minutes to get under control, Martin used a gun with a laser sight, a witness said.

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He was “running down the aisle” with a pistol that had a green laser sight on it,” said John Probst, a 40-year employee of Henry Pratt Co. who survived the shooting. He said the gunman was a coworker.

“As soon as I saw the green thing and heard the shots, we left,” Probst said. “He started opening up on the room and he was just shooting everybody.”

The Henry Pratt Co. identifies itself as one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of industrial valves.

Mueller Water Products, its parent company, said it’s providing help to impacted families.

“Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time,” the parent company said in a statement.

“Our entire focus is on the health and well-being of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families.”

The suburban apartment unit where the suspect is believed to have lived has been taped off for investigation.

“There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams and their futures,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a news conference Friday night.

Pritzker said the officers “rushed toward danger, and in doing that … saved countless lives.”

Prtizker also expressed his sympathy for the victims’ families, saying that there was nothing he could do to lessen their pain, but they should “know our state grieves with you.”

President Donald Trump said Friday the officers did “a great job” and expressed his condolences to victims.

“Heartfelt condolences to all of the victims and their families,” Trump tweeted. “America is with you!”

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