Recordings tell the story of cops' response to Aurora shooting

  • Five employees were killed and six police officers were wounded in the Pratt shootings, but police tapes reveal the toll could have been much worse.

      Five employees were killed and six police officers were wounded in the Pratt shootings, but police tapes reveal the toll could have been much worse. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/25/2019 7:26 PM

Roughly three minutes into their response to a reported shooting at Henry Pratt Co., Aurora police officers come under fire from what they later will learn is a lone gunman inside the massive manufacturing building.

"We got fire, shots fired on the east side," one officer says.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We do not have a sight on him, we do not have a sight on him," another officer exclaims. "Get the shields out! Get the shields out!"

An officer is shot. The others manage to get him into a squad car that rushes him to a hospital.

Then an officer inside the building reports grim news: "I've got four victims upstairs in one room. Three appear to be deceased."

Before Friday, Feb. 15, is over, police will discover the bodies of five employees inside the building. Six officers will be injured, five with bullet wounds. And the gunman, a company worker apparently angry over being fired, will be dead after a shootout.

But in the first minutes -- as reflected by 911 calls and police recordings released Monday by the Aurora Police Department -- no one is sure exactly what's happening as an initial flurry of emergency calls comes in.

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In one, a breathless man inside the warehouse tells a dispatcher an employee was being fired when the shooting began. He says the gunman is still loose.

"Where are you at, sir?" the dispatcher says.

"Inside the warehouse -- hiding," the man says.

When asked if the gunman hit anyone, the man says, "I heard shots. I don't know if anybody is hurt."

As he speaks with the dispatcher, he hears more gunfire.

"There's still more fire shots," he says. "Please send somebody ASAP."

"They're already on the way," the dispatcher tells the caller. "I want you to stay on the phone with me, OK? Do not hang up."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The caller tells the dispatcher the gunman was talking to the manager before the shooting. He says he didn't see the manager after hearing shots fired.

He's hiding behind some pallets. Officers are present, the dispatcher tells him, but the warehouse isn't secure.

"This guy is not in custody," the dispatcher tells the man. "Nobody moves any further, OK? Do not give him a target. Nobody moves. If you have contact with any other employee there, you tell them nobody moves."

The caller says he's alone. Moments later: "I hear shots fired," he says.

"I got it," the dispatcher says. "We got three shots."

The dispatcher tells the caller she's putting him on hold. "Do not move," she cautions.

Now, less than four minutes into the response, an officer checking on another officer shot by a loading dock bay is saying, "it's bad. We've got to get him out of here."

He is told medics are staging a block away.

He refuses to wait.

"Hell with it," he says. "We put him in a squad" to be brought to the medics.

An officer inside the building reports another officer has been shot. He's speaking in low tones; he doesn't want the shooter to hear him.

Yet another officer, outside, says, "I'm hit. I'm still in the (unintelligible). I think I got hit."

Other officers quickly determine he wasn't hit by a bullet, but has been struck in the face by shards of glass.

By radio, officers tell each other what building the shots are fired from; ask if callers to 911 know what kind of weapon is being used; set up a perimeter; and tell medical helicopters to get away from the building because of the noise. A police drone arrives to help look for the shooter, but the man is still inside.

One officer warns others: "He's got some high firepower. Major caliber. Just FYI."

Requests go out for special response teams from Elgin and Naperville. An officer reports being pinned down behind a squad car. Somebody tells someone to watch the roof, in case the shooter has access.

They hear from another witness that the shooter is armed with a handgun, but an officer warns not to get "a false sense of confidence." They learn the shooter emptied his gun, but reloaded.

Nearby Holy Angels Catholic School should be locked down, an officer says.

The cavalry is on the way: The operator tells officers that cops from 50 departments are en route. Homeland Security is there. U.S. Marshals will be coming, too.

A woman runs out a door. She tells officers she hasn't seen anyone in a long time. A guy tells them there are 22 more people in that part of the building.

"For situational awareness, this place is massive ... he (the shooter) might be popping out anywhere," an officer says.

They learn a FedEx driver has remained in his truck, in the parking lot, the whole time.

With employees being removed with the aid of an armored vehicle, focus narrows to searching and securing rooms, including the warehouse. They find an assistant manager hiding in a second-floor office. More employees are discovered hiding.

A team is told to "hold tight," securing a staircase to the second floor.

Joint teams of police officers and paramedics are allowed to enter and go to the room where four employees were shot.

As more and more of the building is cleared, officers begin using "9-bang" flash grenades. "We're just trying to keep him pinned down in a corner," an officer reports.

There are loud sounds.

"Contact made," an officer says. "We're moving up to make contact with the offender."

They spot him.

And finally, just over an hour after the initial 911 calls: "The suspect appears to be down."

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