Gary Martin. Who is he?
At around 1PM on Friday, February 15th, Gary Martin, a felon, took a gun with a laser sight he purchased, but did not legally own due to his prior conviction in 1995, went to the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora, IL where he worked. There he opened fire with his pistol and killed 5 co-workers, wounded 5 police officers and had his life ended in a shootout with police.
According to arrest and court records Gary regularly beat and even stabbed his now former girlfriend down in Mississippi where he lived previously. In 1994, Gary was arrested for and convicted of domestic abuse in Mississippi after he violently beat his girlfriend with a baseball bat, kicking her and slamming her head into a brick wall as well.
According to court records the former girlfriend told police:
“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.”
Now there are 5 people dead, 5 police officers wounded and a company, it’s employees, the town of Aurora, IL and the United States as a whole asking ourselves how did this happen? Could it have been prevented? What’s next?
The Termination and the Union
Gary Martin was a union worker at the plant. It is rumored that Gary was about to be terminated and most likely knew about this. According to Dennis Rokop, a retired nuclear plant manager, “You don’t just fire a union guy. You have to build a case against him. It’s a big drawn-out process.”
So, now you have a violent and convicted felon who is presumed to be unstable, or at the very least, probably easily triggered who is now about to be terminated from his place of employment after 15 years.
Illinois’ Background Check, FOID and Conceal Carry License Failure
Gary is a convicted felon. That we know. But, how did the state of Illinois not realize this and allow him to purchase a firearm?
- Gary Martin had his FOID card, which allowed him to purchase guns and ammunition in the state of Illinois. The background check failed to show his felony conviction.
- He purchased a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun (at the time) legally, which was flagged AFTER receiving the handgun. He did not turn it over and no one came to confiscate the handgun.
- He decided to roll the dice again and applied for his conceal carry license in Illinois, but that was rejected. And yet, Gary still had his .40 caliber handgun and still no one came to confiscate the handgun.
The state of Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and yet there is little follow up when people are flagged allowing them to fall through the cracks and commit crimes like we saw in Aurora, IL.
What Could the Henry Pratt Co. Done Differently?
During tragic times like this one everyone wants to know why it happened, how it happened and who is to blame.
The fact of the matter is, is Gary Martin is to blame. He was a sick and violent individual who did not treat others the way he wanted to be treated.
But, aside from that, was there something more those around Gary could have done differently? Could Henry Pratt Co. avoided this in its entirety? It is hard to say and it is the billion dollar question everyone wants solved.
At the end of the day, however, here is our takeaway from a security perspective:
- Stronger and more thorough background checks need to be done
- Agencies from different states need to communicate and disseminate information better to really keep their citizens safer
- If laws are enacted they must be met with follow through. This man should have NEVER been given a gun, but he was, at which point that gun needs to be confiscated and taken back.
- If a company is going to terminate an employee, then yes, do a thorough investigation before the termination is final. But, don’t draw it out and inform the person so much that they have time to go home grab a gun and start shooting their co-workers because they are upset. More preemptive and proactive measures need to be taken before, during and even after a termination has taken place.
Gary Martin was stopped by police and their above and beyond actions on that cold February afternoon. But, it is the lives that were lost that need to be remembered and their deaths a learning opportunity for all of us, politics aside.
- Clayton Parks of Elgin, Illinois, a human resources manager.
- Russell Beyer of Yorkville, Illinois, a mold operator.
- Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Illinois, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator.
- Josh Pinkard of Oswego, Illinois, a plant manager.
- Trevor Wehner of DeKalb, Illinois, a human resources intern and a student at Northern Illinois University. It was Trevor’s first day.
5 police officers were wounded, but their names have yet to be released. Regardless, we thank them for their heroic actions that day and for doing what they do every single day.