Aurora remembers victims on second anniversary of Henry Pratt shooting

Five white crosses — surrounded by candles, stuffed animals, fresh flowers and cards — stand in the front window of the David L. Pierce Art and History Center in Aurora.

They are reminders of what Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin calls the city's darkest day — the Feb. 15, 2019, mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse.

“Aurora has been changed forever because five lives were taken from us,” Irvin said Monday during a brief ceremony. “But we're stronger because we came together as a community ... to heal.”

Irvin, who placed yellow roses at each of the crosses, visited the memorial with U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville.

The crosses bear the names of the five Henry Pratt employees who were shot and killed by a co-worker: Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner. The gunman also injured another worker and five police officers before killing himself. The shooting happened in the early afternoon when the gunman was being terminated from his job.

The crosses on display at the art and history center, 20 E. Downer Place, were made by the late Greg Zanis, who put them up at the Henry Pratt site in 2019. Zanis built more than 20,000 wooden crosses dedicated to victims of violence.

The crosses will be on display through Feb. 28.

Meanwhile, the Illinois State Police issued a statement on the second anniversary of the deadly shooting.

“It has been two years since that awful day, but the Illinois State Police has not forgotten,” Director Brendan Kelly said in the statement. “The victims and survivors are at the heart of our continued fight to strengthen public safety,”

The shooter was able to purchase the handgun because he mistakenly had been issued a Firearm Owner's Identification card despite a 1995 felony aggravated assault conviction in Mississippi. The error was discovered when he applied for a concealed-carry permit, and his FOID card was revoked in April 2014. He was supposed to turn the gun in, but authorities had not checked to ensure he had done so.

“While progress has been made, the Henry Pratt shooting revealed clearly the need to use less of our resources on an outdated, inefficient renewal process that's similar to that of a fishing license and more on enforcement against real threats to public safety,” Kelly said. “We will need authority from the legislature to untangle and integrate this decades-old patchwork of FOID, concealed carry, firearms transactions and records checks if we are going to strengthen our ability to protect the public.”

Since the Pratt shooting, the state police created a web portal for local law enforcement and prosecutors to identify people's compliance with FOID law.

State police also have conducted more than 480 firearm enforcement details. Submissions of mandatory firearms disposal reports increased 70% in 2020 compared to 2019, officials said. In addition, the state police have improved background checks and increased revocations of FOID cards.

When asked by a reporter what Congress could do to prevent mass shootings, Underwood said the House voted in favor of universal background checks a week after the Henry Pratt shooting, but no additional action was taken.

Underwood said she is looking forward to trying again. “It is important for saving lives ... so that no family has to experience the pain of losing a loved one at a school, or workplace, or grocery store,” she said.

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  U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin bring yellow roses to a memorial located at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center to mark the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora. Mark Welsh/
  Scott Sherwood, staff member for the David L. Pierce Art and History Center, looks over a memorial on the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora. The items will be displayed in the front window through Feb. 28. Mark Welsh/
The Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora on the day a gunman killed five of his co-workers. Daily Herald file photo, February 2019
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