More Than 1,500 Attend Vigil for Aurora Shooting Victims

AURORA, Illinois—More than 1,500 people braved snow and freezing drizzle to attend a prayer vigil for five slain co-workers Sunday, Feb. 17, two days after they were fatally shot at a suburban Chicago manufacturing plant by a longtime employee who was fired moments earlier.

The Rev. Dan Haas told those who gathered near five white crosses erected for the shooting victims outside Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora that Friday’s “senseless killings” left their families brokenhearted in the city about 40 miles west of Chicago.

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People pray at a makeshift memorial in Aurora, Ill., on Feb. 17, 2019. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
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Family, friends and community members attend a vigil in Aurora, Ill., on Feb. 17, 2019. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

“All of these were relatively young people—many of them were very young people. We will never know their gifts and talents. Their lives were snuffed out way too short,” he said of the victims, who included a 21-year-old university student on his first day as an intern.

Haas called on God to bring comfort to the families and Aurora. He then read the names and ages of the five shooting victims, prompting waves of sobs and cries from relatives attending the vigil.

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People pray at a makeshift memorial in Aurora, Ill., on Feb. 17, 2019. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
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Family, friends and community members attend a vigil in Aurora, Ill., on Feb. 17, 2019. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

The city of Aurora tweeted that about 1,700 people attended the vigil in a snowy lot outside the industrial valve manufacturer where several ministers and a rabbi called for healing.

Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin told the vigil crowd that the city’s residents feel for the victims’ families “with all our hearts.”

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Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin speaks during vigil in Aurora, Ill., on Feb. 17, 2019. (Screenshot/CNN)

“When I thought about the words that I might share with our community and the families of the victims today, I thought to myself that just to simply offer condolences is not enough,” he said. “It doesn’t measure the amount of pain that we feel, for the loss that we’ve experienced in this community.”

Authorities said Gary Martin pulled out a gun and began shooting right after hearing that he was being fired from his job of 15 years at the plant for various workplace violations. Martin, 45, was killed in a shootout with officers, ending his deadly rampage. Five police officers and a sixth plant worker were injured in the shooting and are expected to survive.

Firearm Permit Despite Felony Conviction

Martin had purchased the murder weapon, a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun with a laser sight, in March 2014 from a local gun dealer, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters on Saturday.

Despite his criminal history, the weapon was lawfully sold to Martin two months after he was issued a state Firearm Owners Identification, or FOID card, a document used to designate people eligible to own and buy guns.

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Gary Martin is pictured in Oswego, Illinois, on Feb. 16, 2019. (Aurora Police Department/Handout/Reuters)

To apply, Illinois residents need only furnish a valid driver’s license, a recent photo, and the $10 fee. State police then have 30 days to approve or deny the application.

Ziman said Martin’s 1995 conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi, which reportedly involved the bludgeoning and stabbing of a girlfriend, “would not necessarily have shown up on a criminal background check conducted for the FOID card.”

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman speaks at a news conference
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman speaks at a news conference, in Aurora, Ill., about the shootings at a manufacturing company in the city, on Feb. 15, 2019. (Patrick Kunzer/Daily Herald via AP)

The conviction came to light only after his gun purchase, when Martin applied for a concealed-carry permit requiring him to undergo fingerprinting in a more extensive screening process, Ziman said.

“The fact remains that some disgruntled person walked in and had access to a firearm that he shouldn’t have had access to,” she said at the news conference. “This is a human issue.”

By Robert Chiarito