Aurora shooter was convicted of beating girlfriend with baseball bat, stabbing her

  • Five people were killed and others wounded in an Aurora shooting Friday by a man who authorities say should not have had a gun any longer.

    Five people were killed and others wounded in an Aurora shooting Friday by a man who authorities say should not have had a gun any longer. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/17/2019 5:57 PM

A disgruntled employee who fatally shot five people and wounded five officers at an Illinois warehouse Friday severely beat a woman years ago in a domestic violence incident that turned him into a felon -- and should have kept him from buying a gun.

Two decades before Gary Martin, 45, opened fire at his co-workers, he was convicted of aggravated assault in Mississippi. Authorities there said he regularly abused a former girlfriend, at one point hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife.

 

"All I can remember is him hitting and kicking me. I can remember fighting and screaming for help. I remember him pushing my head into that brick wall outside the apartment and thinking that he was going to kill me," the woman told police in Mississippi in 1994, according to court records.

The incident led to the man's arrest. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison, though records show he served less than three years. He later moved to Aurora and was able to buy a gun despite his felony record.

In January 2014, he was able to obtain an Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification card despite his felony record, which Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said would not necessarily have shown up on a criminal-background check conducted before he was issued the card. Some states and local jurisdictions provide incomplete records to the federal database, and sometimes human error leads to missed information.

The card is required to buy guns and ammunition in the state.

He also later bought a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun and applied for a concealed carry permit, which required fingerprinting. During that process, officials discovered his felony conviction. His application for a concealed carry permit was rejected and his FOID card was revoked. But there was no indication that authorities confiscated his gun.

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The shooting rampage has renewed criticisms that Illinois' laws allow many people to have access to guns even after their FOIDs have been revoked.

In Illinois, those whose FOIDs have been revoked receive a notice from the Illinois State Police, telling them to surrender their card and list all the firearms in their possession. But the law does not explicitly require authorities to confiscate the firearms. Instead, the letter asks people to specify that they either no longer have possession of the firearms or have given them to another person.

Aside from his felony, the suspected shooter had been arrested six times by Aurora police on traffic and domestic violence issues. He was arrested most recently in 2017 by police in Oswego for disorderly conduct and damage to property, authorities said.

Mississippi court records paint a picture of a disturbed man who frequently abused his former girlfriend, Chyreese Jones. Jones described him as a controlling man who "fakes" his remorse to seek attention. At one point, she told police, he held her and her 3-year-old daughter hostage inside their apartment, and threatened to kill her with a box cutter, court records say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Jones, 52, brought charges against him after he stabbed her several times with a kitchen knife in Mississippi in March 1994.

"He doesn't take loss or rejection at all," Jones said. "He is going to be in charge. He is going to have something, a knife or a gun, and he is going to win."

On March 8, 1994, Jones asked the shooter, then 20, to pack his belongings at her apartment because she wanted to end the relationship. Martin told Jones that if they were going to end their relationship, they were "going to go out with a bang," she told police at that time.

"'We are all going to die'" Jones told police he said. "That's when (he) began to hit me."

He kicked her in the stomach and hit her with the baseball bat, court records say. Jones ran to her neighbors, and police later found her bleeding from several stab wounds, including two deep cuts to her neck.

While in prison, he wrote to Jones. In one letter, he appeared to blame others for his problems, telling Jones that "they" were doing everything to keep him incarcerated.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep my thoughts to myself. I've got so much to say but I don't know who to say them to. ... This pain and hurt is with me day and night and I just can't seem to shake it," he wrote.

At the end of the letter, he said, "Give Vozzie a big hug and kiss for me," referring to Jones' daughter.

• The Washington Post's Mark Berman, Devlin Barrett, Alice Crites, Julie Tate, Michael Brice-Saddler, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Reis Thebault contributed to this report.

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