The 15-year employee of an Aurora factory who killed five workers and injured six others, including five cops, was being fired Friday, police said.
The mother of the gunman, Gary Martin, 45, said her son was “stressed out” before the incident, which ended with him being killed by police.
“He was way too stressed out,” said the woman, who declined to give her name before embracing relatives outside the Aurora police station and leaving Friday evening after meeting with officers.
At a later news conference, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman confirmed Martin had killed five people at the Henry Pratt Company, a 118-year-old company that makes water valves. The warehouse employs about 200 people, but it wasn’t clear how many were inside at the time, Ziman said.
The horrific ordeal lasted about an hour and 35 minutes from the time numerous people called 911 to report a shooter.
One officer was shot outside the warehouse and another near the entrance as soon as they arrived at the scene, Ziman said. Three additional officers were wounded as they ran into the building.
No shots were fired for the next 90 minutes as scores of officers swarmed the warehouse and tried to find the shooter.
“We had two very different missions: One was for life saving, and one was for finding the offender,” Ziman said.
A SWAT team eventually located Martin, who fired his Smith and Wesson handgun at them, Ziman said. They returned fire, killing him.
Authorities then found five employees dead, and another with a nonfatal wound. Their identities have not been released. Ziman said they were giving family members time to contact one another.
“My heart goes out to the victims and their family members who simply went to work today like any other day,” she said.
The five officers who were shot are expected to survive as well. One had undergone surgery, and another was going under the knife late Friday, Ziman said.
A search of Martin’s Aurora home didn’t turn up anything suspicious, Ziman said.
“This is a sad day for the city of Aurora. We must never forget those innocent people who were senselessly, senselessly gunned down,” said Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. “… Our hearts go out to the victims in this horrific tragedy.”
Emergency crews originally responded to “multiple calls” of an active shooter at 641 Archer Ave. at 1:28 p.m., Ziman said.
The officers were immediately fired upon as they entered they 29,000-square-foot warehouse, she said.
“There is an active shooter near Highland and Archer,” the city tweeted Friday afternoon. “Aurora Police are on the scene.”
“This is an ongoing active scene,” police tweeted.
A huge police and fire department presence could be seen outside the business. SWAT teams surrounded the complex. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI were also at the scene.
John Probst, who identified himself as a worker at Henry Pratt, told ABC7 the gunman worked “in assembly” at the company for about 15 years and came to work Friday like any other day. He said 30 people were in the building at the time of the shooting.
He said he saw Martin holding a pistol with a laser scope before he started firing randomly. After the shooting started, he and other workers ran out of the back of the building, and some took refuge in nearby homes.
The shooter was “apprehended” around 3 p.m., the city tweeted. Ziman later said he was killed by police.
Convicted in a stabbing
Court records show that Martin was convicted of stabbing a woman in Mississippi in 1994.
In 2000, records show, he was cited in Aurora for illegally altering the speakers in his car and for “squealing or screeching tires.”
His landlord sued him in 2002, and a Kane County judge entered an order of possession against him.
It’s unclear why Martin might have been let go. Mueller Water Products, Henry Pratt’s parent company, released a statement saying they were “shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred today at our Henry Pratt facility in Aurora.
“We continue to work closely with law enforcement, with whom we share our deepest gratitude for their support. We will provide updates as we learn more,” the company said.
It was also unclear how long Martin lived in Aurora or whether he gave anyone any clues to his plans. As police and a bomb squad descended upon his home in the Acorn Woods Condominiums on the northeast side of Aurora on Friday night, neighbors interviewed said they knew little about him.
Across town at Aurora University, Henry Pratt workers could be seen reuniting with family members through windows.
Officials praised the response of first responders in preventing more deaths.
“You rushed toward danger. And in doing that you saved countless lives,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the news conference. “And you represent the very best of what it means to protect our communities and serve our communities. You have our deepest gratitude.”
Contributing: Sam Charles, Frank Main, Alice Bazerghi, Carlos Ballesteros