'Important that we never forget': Aurora marks 4th anniversary of Pratt Co. shooting

For the first time, Ted Beyer attended the annual memorial ceremony the City of Aurora conducted Wednesday for his son, Russell, and the four other men killed Feb. 15, 2019, at Henry Pratt Co.

And he made sure U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, who spoke at the event, knew what he thought about Foster's speech and the shooting.

"It's easy (for politicians) to do talk. Sit down and do something" about workplace violence and guns, Beyer said, when reporters asked him afterward about the conversation.

"Look what hatred and bitterness got us. ... Look what it cost them," he said, pointing to the victims' photos.

"I've got a lot of resentment. I've been carrying this," Beyer said.

The ceremony at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center featured speeches by the mayor, the police chief, Foster, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and former Pratt worker Anita Lewis.

They stood next to the five memorial crosses that first were erected at the business. The Aurora Historical Society has kept them, plus some of the stuffed animals, candles and other tribute items people left at the crosses. The exhibit is on display through Saturday at the center, 20 E. Downer Place.

Mayor Richard Irvin said he often prays for the victims' families.

"I also think it is important that we never forget," Irvin said.

Foster urged passing what he calls common-sense gun-safety laws. "We cannot wait for the next tragedy," he said.

Underwood agreed.

"I refuse to accept the frequency of these tragedies as routine," she said.

Beyer worked at Pratt factory for about 40 years and was a union steward. He said he knew the shooter, and that his son, the union chairman, was trying to help the shooter that day.

The shooter had been called to a disciplinary meeting and brought a handgun, according to a lawsuit a survivor filed. When told he was fired, the man shot Russell Beyer, Josh Pinkard, Clayton Parks, Trevor Wehner and another man, then left and shot co-worker Vicente Juarez. Beyer, Pinkard, Parks, Wehner and Juarez were killed.

The shooter also shot at Aurora police officers, injuring six of them.

Police killed the shooter.

Beyer said he blames Pratt for the shooting, saying he told company officials they were treating employees badly and that resentment was building that could lead to violence.

"They (the five killed) were put in harm's way by the company," Beyer said.

In her speech, Lewis recalled working on time cards in the office building next to the warehouse where the shooting took place. She knew the shooter and the victims, except for Wehner, a college student who just started an internship at Pratt that day. A co-worker ran in to her office, saying, "(The shooter) is across the street shooting people."

"I miss them all," Lewis said.

The company closed the Aurora plant in March 2022.

Several of the speakers also mentioned the shooting that took place Monday at Michigan State University.

Several members of Juarez's family, including a son and grandchildren, who attended wore memorial sweatshirts reading, "Juarez blood runs through my veins."

Tom Wehner, Trevor Wehner's father, also attended the ceremony.

"I just wish more could be done. We really need to get down to the issues of why this (mass shootings) is happening in this country," he said afterward.

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  Aurora Alderman Patty Smith, left, and relatives of Vicente Juarez reflect on the fourth anniversary of the shooting at Henry Pratt Co., during a memorial service Wednesday at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center in Aurora. Brian Hill/
  The Rev. Hattie Johnson hugs a mourner during a memorial service Wednesday for the people killed in the 2019 shooting at Henry Pratt Co. Brian Hill/
  A poster showing the men killed in the shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora was on display during a memorial service Wednesday. Brian Hill/
  Relatives of Vicente Juarez look at news articles about the 2019 shooting at Henry Pratt Co., before a memorial service Wednesday in Aurora. Brian Hill/
  Ted Beyer pauses a moment in reflection of his son Russell Beyer and the four others who died in the Feb. 15, 2019, shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora. Brian Hill/
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