2019-10-08 00:54:01 UTC
Man accused in Aurora mass shooting had been convicted for beating
girlfriend with baseball bat
AURORA, Ill. 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 police said 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 Martins 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, Ill., where he spent 15 years working at a
warehouse, where he was able to buy a gun despite his felony record, and
where, on Friday afternoon, violence erupted again.
Authorities in the Chicago suburb said Martin was called into a meeting at
the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse. After he was told he was being fired, he
began shooting, killing the three employees who were at the meeting and two
others who were nearby, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters
Saturday. Among the dead was an intern on his first day at work.
handout booking photo obtained by Reuters February 16, 2019. (Aurora Police
Department/Handout via Reuters)
Investigators have said little else that would explain the shooting spree,
including why Martin was fired.
Police do not know if Martin knew of his termination and planned the
shootout beforehand. But Dennis Rokop, a retired nuclear project manager,
said that as a union employee, Martin was likely well aware that he was
facing a termination meeting.
You dont just fire a union guy, Rokop said. You have to build a case
against him. Its a big drawn-out process.
What police say they do know is that Martin showed up at the Henry Pratt
Co. warehouse Friday armed with a Smith & Wesson handgun he was carrying
illegally. Authorities also revealed Saturday that in January 2014, Martin
was able to obtain an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card despite
his felony record, which 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.
Martin also later bought a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun and applied
for a concealed carry permit, which required fingerprinting. During that
process, officials discovered Martins felony conviction. His application
for a concealed carry permit was rejected and his FOID card was revoked.
But there was no indication that authorities even confiscated his gun.
[At least 5 civilians dead and 5 officers wounded in shooting in Aurora,
Ill., officials say]
The shooting rampage has renewed criticisms that Illinoiss 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.
The shooting also carries echoes of the April 2018 shooting at a Waffle
House in Tennessee involving a suspect who had obtained a FOID card from
Illinois. Travis Reinking, who has been charged in that shooting, had
previously been arrested for trying to cross a security barrier near the
White House. As a result, Illinois authorities revoked his FOID card, took
his guns and gave them to his father. But Reinking later got the weapons
The fact remains is that some disgruntled person walked in and had access
to a firearm that he shouldnt have had access to, Ziman told reporters,
referring to Martin. I dont want to make it political. This is a human
issue. Lives were lost.
Killed were Clayton Parks, a human resource manager at Henry Pratt; Trevor
Wehner, a human resource intern and a student at Northern Illinois
University; Russell Beyer, a mold operator; Vicente Juarez, a stock room
attendant and fork lift operator; and Josh Pinkard, a plant manager.
Wehner was killed on his first day as an intern at Henry Pratt. In a
statement Saturday, Northern Illinois University president Lisa Freeman
said Wehner was supposed to graduate in May with a degree in human resource
management. Parks, an alumnus of the university, graduated in 2014.
A family friend of Wehner, Cynthia Rose Cascarano, described him in a
Facebook post as a big brother to many boys in the community and a great
Each and every one of us have had a First Day on the job, Cascarano
wrote. His should have never ended this way.
One warehouse employee suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.
The five wounded officers are all expected to survive, police said. The
officers, whose names were not released, are between ages 23 and 53. The
youngest has been an officer for two years and the oldest for 30 years,
authorities said. A sixth officer suffered a minor injury, though it was
not caused by a gunshot.
Police were called to the scene just before 1:30 p.m. Friday. Within five
minutes, Martin had shot the five officers who arrived at the 29,000-
square-foot warehouse. He then hid in the warehouse, and police spent the
next hour and a half finding him inside the massive facility. When police
found Martin, he fired at the officers, who then killed him, Ziman said.
About 200 people work at Henry Pratt, which is owned by Atlanta-based
Mueller Water Products. Scott Hall, the companys president and chief
executive, told reporters Saturday that Martin was fired for a culmination
of a various workplace rules violations. Hall said Martins felony record
did not come up in a background check before the company hired him 15 years
Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first
responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this
extremely difficult time, the company said in statement.
Neil Van Milligan, a former supervisor who no longer works at Henry Pratt,
said Martin worked for him sporadically over four years, usually packaging
He had kind of an attitude, said Van Milligan, recalling how Martin
repeatedly broke the rule against using cellphones on the plant floor.
Hed just kind of look at you like you were stupid for telling him not to
do something, Van Milligan said. Knowing him and the way his attitude
was, it doesnt surprise me that he got reprimanded.
Aside from his felony, Martin had been arrested six times by Aurora police
on traffic and domestic violence issues. He was arrested most recently in
2017 by police in nearby Oswego, Ill., 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 Martin as a
controlling man who fakes his remorse to seek attention. At one point,
she told police, Martin held her and her 3-year-old daughter hostage inside
their apartment, and threatened to kill her with a box cutter, court
Jones, 52, brought charges against him after he stabbed her several times
with a kitchen knife in Mississippi in March 1994.
He doesnt 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
On March 8, 1994, Jones asked Martin, 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 Martin said. Thats when
[he] began to hit me.
[One year later, public support for stricter gun laws has returned to pre-
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, Martin 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 dont know how much longer I can keep my thoughts to myself. Ive got so
much to say but I dont know who to say them to ... This pain and hurt is
with me day and night and I just cant seem to shake it, Martin wrote.
At the end of the letter, he said, Give Vozzie a big hug and kiss for me,
referring to Joness daughter.
On Saturday, neighbors in the cluster of three-story apartment buildings
where Martin lived, in a blue-collar neighborhood on the outskirts of
Aurora, said some had heard Martin was fighting to keep his job.
Steve Spizewski, who lived three doors down from Martin, saw another,
kinder side to him. They would hang out together, Spizewski said, playing
video games or watching movies.
When Spizewskis mother passed away recently, Martin was the person who
consoled him. Spizewskis never thought of Martin as a man who might use a
I knew he had an air rifle, he said. I didnt know he had a gun gun.
But Spizewski also said Martin had a troubled recent relationship with a
girlfriend who had damaged his car and had mounted a camera on a post
overlooking his assigned parking spot to protect his prized possession.
When Spizewski last saw Martin earlier this week, though, he had no idea
that anything was wrong.
He had a cigar in his mouth, a fedora on his head, Spizewski said.
Martin often bought cigars from a Circle K not far from where he lived,
where he struck up a friendship with Ricardo Moreno, an assistant manager.
Martin came in almost every morning as he left for work on the early shift,
and would purchase two to three cigars the Black and Mild Jazz brand.
The two men bonded over 30-minute conversations that ranged from talking
about women to the news. When mass shootings, notably Las Vegas and
Parkland, were in the headlines, Martin didnt have much to say.
He tried to stay away from bad vibes, Moreno said.
He also never talked about partying or going to the bars, said Moreno,
noting he mostly stayed at home.
Moreno said he last talked with Martin two weeks ago, when he said he was
dating a new woman.
Lifes good, everythings going good, he said Martin told him.
Jones attributed Martins anger to problems that dated to his childhood in
Aurora. He never had a father-figure in his life, she said, and he had such
a strained relationship with his mother that he moved to Mississippi where
he lived with his grandmother and other relatives.
He is a nice guy was a nice guy, she said, But he was dealing with
demons of some sort and he couldnt chase.
Martins mother declined to comment.
The shooting in Aurora occurred just a day after the first anniversary of a
mass shooting that killed 17 students and staffers at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The young survivors have since become
among the loudest advocates for stronger gun laws, spurring a social media
movement with the hashtag #NeverAgain. Their activism has led to the
creation of the student-led demonstration, March for our Lives.
Aurora shares a name with a Denver suburb that endured a mass shooting
almost seven years ago. A gunman, James Holmes, opened fire inside a movie
theater in 2012, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. The similarity
was not lost on Nick Metz, the police chief of Aurora, Colo.
Months from now as people talk about the mass shooting in Aurora, someone
will ask, Which Aurora mass shooting are we talking about? he said on