The five employees of an Illinois manufacturing plant killed when a colleague who had been terminated opened fire included an intern on his first day on the job, a union chairman described as a “gentle giant,” and a grandfather of eight.
Gary Montez Martin, 45, killed the five people after being fired from his job at Henry Pratt in Aurora, and he was later fatally shot by police after apparently waiting for officers to arrive in a back machine shop, authorities said.
“My dad was faithful and said, even when he was sick: ‘Nope, I’ve got to go to work because I’ve got to do my job,'” Diana Juarez, the daughter of slain shipping and warehouse worker Vicente Juarez, told Telemundo on Saturday. He was a father of three and a grandfather of eight, the family said.
Killed in Friday’s rampage were Juarez, who joined the company in 2006; plant manager Josh Pinkard; Russell Beyer, an employee of more than 20 years and union chairman; human resources manager Clayton Parks; and Trevor Wehner, a student at Northern Illinois University who started as an intern in the HR department on Friday, according to police and the company.
Wehner was expected to graduate in May with a degree in human resources management, university president Lisa Freeman said in a statement.
Parks was an alumnus of Northern Illinois University who graduated from its college of business in 2014, she said.
Thomas Wherner, Trevor’s younger brother, said, “He wanted to do some good to the people around him, help them out.”
“I always looked up to him just because he did have so many friends and he was so loved, and I just always wanted to be like him,” Thomas Wherner said in an interview with NBC News.
Beyer was “a gentle giant,” Mindy Hilliard, who is married to Beyer’s brother, said. “He always was laughing and joking and had a smile on his face. He loved his family.”
“He had a daughter and a son and was going to be 48 years old this upcoming Thursday,” she said.
Pinkard, 37, was an Alabama native and “a devoted husband and father to three kids,” a cousin, Zack Howard, said in a statement.
Mueller Water Products, the parent company of Henry Pratt, said Pinkard joined the parent company 13 years ago in Albertville, Alabama, and moved to Aurora last spring to become plant manager.
“He loved God, his family, and Mississippi State sports,” Howard said.
Scott Hall, president and CEO of Mueller Water Products, said Saturday that the company was providing counseling and other assistance.
The company will be reviewing its procedures to determine if anything can be done in the future “to ensure this horrible incident is never repeated,” he said.
“Friday was basically the worst day that our company has ever had,” Hall said. “We are hurting right now.”
Another employee who was shot and wounded was expected to be released from the hospital Saturday, Hall said. Four police officers also were shot and wounded, a fifth was injured by shrapnel and a sixth was injured but not shot, police said.
Martin was armed with a .40-caliber handgun that had a laser on it, and multiple spent magazines were found, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said.
He bought the gun in March of 2014 but legally should not have been in possession of a gun after it was discovered that he had a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi, authorities said.
A background check was done when Martin was hired 15 years ago, but it did not turn up that conviction, Hall said. Martin was being fired Friday “for a culmination of various workplace rules violations,” Hall said.
Aurora’s police chief said Saturday that Martin opened fire at a meeting in which his employment was terminated, before moving outside the room. Police said Martin was later killed by officers after a short gunfight with police who entered the building looking for him.
Diana Juarez, the daughter of Vicente, said Saturday the family was heartbroken but also frustrated by what they said was a lack of information following the shooting.
“We don’t know anything — besides that he’s gone,” she said.
She also wondered how Martin was able to have a gun when he was being fired.
“He injured a lot of people and he killed my dad,” she said. “And now I’m not going to see my dad — I’m never going to see my dad. He’s never going to come home from work. Never.”
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.