Police: Gunman who killed 5 civilians, wounded 5 cops was being fired from Aurora job
An Aurora man who was in the process of being fired from his job started a shooting spree in his workplace Friday afternoon that killed five employees, wounded five police officers and another civilian, and ended with his own death.
The shooting occurred in the 29,000-square-foot Henry Pratt manufacturing warehouse at 641 Archer Ave.
Authorities said the shooter began firing a Smith & Wesson handgun either during or shortly after an afternoon meeting in which he was being terminated from a job he held for 15 years.
Police Chief Kristen Ziman identified the shooter as Gary Martin, 45, of Aurora. She said he acted alone.
Ziman said police responded to multiple calls about an active shooter at 1:24 p.m. and immediately were fired upon when they arrived four minutes later.
Two of the first four officers approaching the building were shot, one while he was still outside the building, Ziman said. Additional officers began to arrive and also were fired upon. A total of five officers were struck by gunfire, and a sixth was treated for a knee injury. All five wounded officers were shot within five minutes of arrival, Ziman said.
Those officers, all men, were taken to hospitals in the area, and two were then airlifted to trauma centers. Ziman did not name the officers but said authorities believe their injuries were not life-threatening.
She said the civilians killed in the rampage were all men and all employees of the company. A sixth employee was being treated for gunshot wounds that were not believed to be life-threatening. She said authorities were working late Friday to notify next of kin.
She said the gunman opened fire on Aurora and Naperville police officers when they confronted him inside the building and was shot and killed in the exchange.
Late Friday, the Kane County bomb squad was at the gunman's apartment on the 1800 block of Tall Oaks Drive in Aurora. Ziman said authorities obtained a search warrant for the home and were treating it as a crime scene.
Two residents who lived in the building said they were allowed to cross police tape after showing their IDs, but another officer later told the couple to turn back and did not give a timeline for when they would be allowed into their home.
The gunman's mother, who met with Aurora police Friday evening, said her son had been laid off recently and was "stressed out," according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "He was way too stressed out," said the woman, who declined to give her name before embracing relatives outside the Aurora police station and leaving Friday evening.
The company where the shooting took place issued a statement late Friday saying "Mueller Water Products is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred today at our Henry Pratt facility in Aurora, Illinois. 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. 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. We continue to work closely with law enforcement, with whom we share our deepest gratitude for their support."
The facility employs about 200 people, but police do not know how many people were there at the time of the shooting.
SWAT teams from throughout the suburbs were called to the scene, as were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI. Sources said SWAT teams were conducting training exercises in Naperville at the time of the shooting.
Nearby Holy Angels School and all 18 schools in West Aurora Unit District 129 were placed on lockdown during the search for the shooter.
Bob Gonzalez, school board president in West Aurora Unit District 129, also works as a State Farm agent less than a block from the scene, with an office on Prairie Street just east of Highland Avenue. As soon as he heard sirens and realized the emergency in the area was a shooting, he got in touch with Superintendent Jeff Craig to start putting student safety measures into place.
At 1:56 p.m., Gonzalez said, Craig put all of the district's 18 schools on soft lockdown. The lockdown lasted until the district began dismissing students about 4 p.m., after police said the situation was "contained" by about 3:45. Students were to be dismissed in 40-minute intervals, starting with the elementary schools and Hope D. Wall School, then West Aurora High School, the district's middle schools and the West Aurora Learning Center.
The district canceled a sixth-grade basketball game between two of its schools as well as all practices at middle schools and West Aurora High. Freshman and sophomore boys basketball games at Elgin High School were canceled, but the West Aurora varsity team was still to play its 7 p.m. game at Elgin.
While police were searching for the shooter, Gonzalez called multiple clients warning them not to come in to his office at 301 Prairie St. and locked down the facility to preserve the safety of his 4-year-old twin grandchildren, who were visiting.
Nancy Caal, an employee of Erwin's Truck Repair, 735 Prairie St., said she and three others were locked down inside the shop during the manhunt for the shooter.
"We have not heard from the police, but we can hear all the sirens so I went and shut the front gate and locked all of the doors," Caal said at the time. "I've got three people here with me and there's four people in the building behind me, too. We're not seeing much because we prefer to be all the way inside the building and not in the windows. We're staying calm."
Ziman praised the work of police officers.
"Thank you for your selfless act. Thank you for running toward gunfire and putting your lives in danger to protect those inside the business," she said. "My heart goes out to the victims and their families who simply went to work today like any other day. We offer our sincere condolences."
"I know how quick the response by our officers saved lives today," she said. "They took on gunfire but they pressed on until they located the shooter."
The FBI is providing resources for victims. Anyone needing help should email auroravictimasst@FBI.gov. Anyone with information about the shooting is being asked to email auorashootingtips@FBI.gov.
• Daily Herald staff writers Harry Hitzeman, Robert Sanchez, Susan Sarkauskas and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.