February 15 saw a number of horrific events in the U.S., all just one year and one day after the Parkland Shooting that saw seventeen deaths, and eleven years and one day since the shooting at Northern Illinois University that saw six deaths, including the shooter.
At 1:24 p.m. on Friday, the Aurora, IL, police department began to receive calls about an active shooter at Henry Pratt Company. Officers arrived on the scene in four minutes, quickly deciding to activate Aurora's special response team. Within two minutes of being on site, the dispatchers received the first report of an officer being shot. In the next minute, dispatchers got word of four victims on one floor, and then a fifth on another floor. The following three minutes saw more gunfire and another two police officers wounded, leading to the decision to return fire. For 17 minutes, the wounded officers were evacuated from the scene, and a separate operation took place to evacuate employees from the warehouse. Police searched the 29,000 sq. ft. warehouse for over an hour without contact with the gunman. At 2:58 p.m., the officers located the gunman near the back of the building. The gunman opened fire at the officers and was shot and killed at 2:59 p.m. in an exchange of gunfire.
Eight SWAT teams responded to the incident, and 25 to 35 agencies and police departments sent resources in response to the scene. There were anywhere between 200 to 300 police officers, agents, and other personnel in the vicinity.
The gunman was Gary Martin, who had been working for Henry Pratt Co. for 15 years. He had been called into a meeting that day, where he was told that he would be fired. After the meeting, he took out his pistol and began shooting people. He kept firing as he left the meeting room and went into the warehouse.
Martin had a felony conviction in Mississippi in 1995. In January 2015, then living in Aurora, he was issued a firearm owner's identification card, and in March 2014, he took possession of a .40 caliber handgun. He had passed his background check, and it wasn't until he applied for a conceal-carry permit in the same month that his fingerprints flagged him for the 1995 conviction. After officials discovered the felony, the Illinois State Police revoked his FOID card and state police sent him a letter telling him to relinquish the weapon to police, however, it is unknown if law enforcement ever followed up with him.
Five police officers were wounded in the shooting, a sixth suffered a knee injury, and there was one surviving victim. Five victims were confirmed dead:
Vincente Juarez from Oswego, IL, a stockroom attendant who had been with the company since 2006.
Josh Pinkard, also from Oswego, was the plant manager who had also joined the company 13 years ago in Alabama, only moving to Aurora last spring.
Russell Beyer from Yorkville, IL, a mold operator who had worked for Henry Pratt for more than 20 years.
Clayton Parks of Elgin, IL, was the human resources manager of the company, and an alumnus of Northern Illinois University's class of 2014, who joined Henry Pratt in 2018.
Trevor Wehner, a senior at Northern Illinois University set to graduate in May, was a human resource intern from Sheridan, IL. Friday was his first day at Henry Pratt.
Imagine, for a minute, going to your first day at work as an intern, only for it to be your last.
Imagine going into the place that you have worked at for over 20 years, with no reason to suspect that it'd be your last.
There were only nine people in the building where the shooting took place.
That same night in San Francisco, there was an active shooting scare during a performance of "Hamilton."
San Francisco police officer Joseph Tomlinson told USA TODAY that a woman suffered a medical emergency during a scene where Alexander Hamilton is shot on stage, which sparked mass panic among the audience, believing that there was an active shooter. The audience began to self-evacuate, and when an Automated External Defibrillator was pulled, an alarm was triggered, causing more panic among the audience.
Four people were injured, including the woman who suffered a heart attack--two suffered from minor injuries, and one has a broken leg.
This was a false alarm. However, the terror and the panic of the audience and cast was real.
Meanwhile, on Friday, President Trump was leaving the White House in the afternoon when reporters shouted questions regarding the still-developing shooting in Aurora. To my dismay, he waved them off and ignored them. This recent mass shooting took place thirty minutes from where I grew up, thirty minutes from where my mom works and where some of my friends still go to high school. I'm three and a half hours away from my family and friends back home, and had that shooter fled, they would've been in more danger. While all of this is unfolding, all we get from the president is absolutely nothing. Because that's reassuring. I'd understand had he not been briefed on the situation yet, but he could still say something to that extent to reassure those who are impacted by the situation. Illinois senators, Illinois's Lt. Gov., and former Rep. Gabby Giffords all made a comment on the situation before the president did. And when he finally made a comment about it, it was on Twitter with a generic statement.
His condolences come two hours after the shooter was apprehended. I know the President is a busy man, but he was briefed about the situation and ignored it when it was going on. It took two hours to get an acknowledgment, and in total it's three generic sentences that any person could have tweeted. He practically brushed off a mass shooting. If that doesn't tell you how normalized it has become, I don't know what will.
And here's the kicker: Friday morning, Trump declared a national emergency because Congress wouldn't fully fund his wall. Not only that, but he also stated that he "didn't need to do this." He declared a national emergency over something that he claims he could build "over a long period of time" just because he'd "rather do it much faster," and then, a couple hours later, a mass shooting takes place in the country, killing five innocent people, and evidently it's no big deal. He will spend hours upon hours defending his case to declare a national emergency, yet he will not take more than a minute to type out a generic statement about an actual crisis plaguing the nation.
And that, right there, is why this continues to happen in our country. It is so sickening, all of this: how often it happens, how commonplace it is, how numb we've all grown to it, how some people rather choose to ignore it.