‘We always want to remember them’: Aurora will honor victims on 5th anniversary of mass shooting
Five years ago this week, a Henry Pratt Co. worker who was about to be fired walked into a meeting at the Aurora factory and shot five co-workers to death.
The city of Aurora wants to ensure the victims ‒ Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner ‒ are never forgotten.
On Thursday, representatives of their families and community members will gather for a candlelight ceremony where a granite memorial bench will be unveiled in the victims’ honor.
“We always want to remember them,” said Clayton Muhammad, spokesman for Mayor Richard Irvin.
The ceremony is set for 6 p.m. at Belle Salle Banquets. Reservations are required, and at least 200 people had signed up by Friday, according to Muhammad.
Previous ceremonies took place at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center, where the Aurora Historical Society stores the white crosses and a selection of items left by mourners in an impromptu memorial that appeared at the factory site following the shooting.
But that space was small, so the city decided to get a larger space, Muhammad said.
Muhammad said representatives from all five families will attend Thursday’s ceremony.
Police officials also are scheduled to speak.
The bench will be installed at the Aurora Police Department, Muhammad said.
The shooting happened around 1:24 p.m. Feb. 15, 2019 inside the factory at 641 Archer Ave.
The shooter, a 45-year-old man, had been called in for a disciplinary meeting. He brought a handgun, according to a lawsuit filed by a survivor. The survivor, who was a union steward, was in the meeting, along with four of the men killed.
Beyer, of Yorkville, was the union chairman; Pinkard, who lived in Oswego, was the manager of the plant; Parks, of Elgin, was its human resources manager; and Wehner, of Sheridan, was a college student who had just started an internship at the company that day.
After shooting them, the man left the room and shot Juarez, a forklift operator from Oswego, near a dock.
He shot at police as they arrived and pursued him through the building, injuring five of them. A sixth officer sustained a non-gunshot injury.
Eventually, the shooter was cornered, and a Naperville police officer ‒ one of hundreds called to the site for mutual aid ‒ shot and killed him.
The company closed the plant in March 2022.
To make a reservation for Thursday’s event, visit aurora-il.org/WeRemember.