A man injured in the Feb. 15 shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora that killed five of his co-workers and wounded several police officers is revealing details about what happened that day.
Timothy Williams, who was shot three times – once in his right arm and twice in his back – is suing the Illinois State Police for not following proper procedures that allowed the gunman to keep the handgun used in the shooting. The shooter, Gary Martin, 45, of Aurora, died in a shootout with police.
Williams is seeking $2 million in damages. Two bullets remain in his back, according to the lawsuit.
Among those killed in the shooting was Sheridan native Trevor Wehner, 21, a Northern Illinois University student who was working his first day as an intern for Mueller Water Products, Henry Pratt's parent company, when Wehner was included in a meeting in which it was determined Martin would be fired.
Also killed were Clayton Parks, 32, of Elgin, a 2014 NIU graduate who was the human resources manager; Russell Beyer, 47, of Yorkville, a mold operator and union chairman; Vicente Juarez, 54, of Oswego, a stock room attendant and forklift operator; and Josh Pinkard, 37, of Oswego, the plant manager.
Williams, a union steward and factory worker at Henry Pratt Co., was also at the meeting, said Matthew Willens, of Willens Law Offices in Chicago, one of the attorneys representing Williams in the lawsuit. Williams filed the suit March 8 in the Court of Claims of the State of Illinois.
Also in the meeting were Parks, Beyer and Pinkard. According to Willens, Williams did not know before the meeting that Martin was going to be fired.
"He suspected it was some type of disciplinary meeting, but that's all he knew," Willens said. "He didn't know anyone was getting fired at the meeting."
Williams has been working at Henry Pratt Co. for about 14 years, and he knew Martin, a 15-year employee at the company.
"He knew him pretty well," Willens said. "They had worked together for many years. I can't say they were friends and that they hung out a lot or anything like that, but they certainly weren't enemies."
A few days before the shooting, Martin had been reprimanded for removing a foam seal from his safety glasses, Willens said.
"That was brought up at the meeting, about not wearing the proper safety gear," he said.
After being told he was being fired, Martin said, "We're done here" and started shooting, Willens related.
"He pulls out his gun, which had a laser on it and pointed it across the table and starting shooting," he said.
As Martin started shooting, Williams thought he could make it out one of the doors in the conference room.
"He grabbed the door knob with his right hand and Mr. Martin fired a shot which went through his skin and bone," Willens said.
Williams was able to run out the door after Martin either ran out of ammunition or his gun jammed, Willens said.
"He was running down the hall yelling, 'Gary's shooting! Gary's shooting!' '' Willens said. "We'd like to think that Mr. Williams probably saved a bunch of lives that day. Even after he left the conference room, Mr. Williams was running through the factory, trying to clear as many people out as possible."
According to Willens, Martin saw Williams a little later in the factory. At that point, Martin was driving through the building on a motorized cart.
"Mr. Martin says to Mr. Williams, 'You're not dead yet?' '' Willens said. "Mr. Williams began to run away and was shot twice in the back, one on the right side of the back and one on the left side of the back."
Williams was able to gather up enough strength to make it out a door, where he saw some co-workers who weren't injured. The co-workers then tended to him.
"They flag down a passerby, someone who was driving by the building who brought Mr. Williams to the hospital," Willens said.
Both bullets remain in Williams' back.
"He had surgery on the right arm and my understanding, without reviewing medical records, is the doctors determined it was more dangerous to try and remove the two bullets from the back, so they left them in for now," Willens said. "And it's a wait and see thing."
Williams is still under medical care and hasn't returned to work since the shooting. Along with his physical injuries is the emotional trauma that has left him scarred.
"In addition to being shot, he watched his friends and co-workers die in front of his eyes," Willens said. "We anticipate a long road ahead for Mr. Williams."
The lawsuit alleges that, "Mr. Martin never would have never possessed the firearm he used at the Henry Pratt Company mass shooting had the Illinois State Police properly followed and implemented their internal protocols intended to keep firearms out of the hands of citizens who meet certain criteria deemed by the legislature in the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act to be unfit for ownership of a firearm."
"If they would have followed procedures, Mr. Martin wouldn't have had the gun that he killed several people with that day and injured several others," Willens said.
In an email, Lt. Joseph Hutchins, chief public information officer for the state police, said the agancy "doesn’t respond to questions regarding pending litigation."
The state police previously said that Martin lied on his gun license application in order to obtain a gun. He applied for a Firearm Owner's Identification card in January 2014.
"On his application, Martin answered 'no' to the question, 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' " state police officials had said. "The search of records conducted by FOID staff only produced Martin's Illinois criminal history information, which revealed no prohibiting factors."
Martin was turned down for a concealed carry permit and his Illinois FOID card was revoked in 2014 after it was discovered he had a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault out of Mississippi.
Martin pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a requirement to undergo psychological screening. He was released from custody in April 1997.
"The Illinois State Police did not contact Mississippi and failed to disclose Mr. Martin's violent felony convictions in the criminal history background check it performed for Mr. Martin's FOID card application," according to the suit.
His FOID card was revoked after he applied for a Firearm Concealed Carry License in March 2014.
"Once an individual's FOID is revoked, Illinois law requires a revoked FOID card holder to surrender their FOID card and complete a Firearm Disposition Record within 48 hours of receiving notice of the revocation," according to state police officials. "The Firearm Disposition Record would document the name, address and FOID number of the individual receiving any transferred weapons from the revoked FOID card holder."
A revoked FOID card holder can lawfully transfer their weapon to a valid FOID card holder or to the local law enforcement agency where the revoked FOID cardholder lives. The State Police has no record of receiving a Firearm Disposition Record for Martin or his FOID card.
If a revoked FOID card holder doesn't comply, the county sheriff or law enforcement agency where the individual lives can petition the court to issue a search warrant for the FOID card and any firearms in their possession. But Illinois law does not require them to do so, according to officials.
In a previous statement, the Aurora Police Department had said its records did not confirm notification of a FOID card revocation or the recovery of firearms from Martin in 2014 or any time since.
"If an agency is made aware of a FOID card revocation, the agency may seek to petition the court for the FOID card and any firearms; however, having a revoked FOID card alone is not sufficient grounds to search a person or their home," the department added.