AURORA, Ill. – The day after Valentine’s Day, Terra Pinkard received a final text message from the love of her life.
She says it read: “I love you, I’ve been shot at work.”
“It took me several times reading it for it to hit me that it was for real,” Pinkard wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “I called his phone several times, text, FaceTime, nothing.”
After calling Henry Pratt Co., the Aurora, Illinois plant where her husband Josh Pinkard worked, she learned that police were at the building, Pinkard wrote.
She drove to the industrial valve manufacturer’s warehouse, then to two hospitals — waiting for hours — before learning at a staging area for families that Josh was one of five people killed in a shooting at the plant Friday afternoon.
Police say Gary Martin, 45, opened fire at the 29,000-square-foot warehouse, killing five colleagues and injuring six people — including five police officers.
“With my pastor’s help, since family was still on planes to get to us, I told my children their dad did not make it and is in heaven with Jesus. I’ve never had to do something that hard,” Pinkard wrote on Facebook.
She wrote that she cannot talk about her husband without breaking down in sobs.
“I’m crying now as I write this. I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing Josh was!” the post reads. “The man who was dying and found the clarity of mind for just a second to send me one last text to let me know he would always love me.”
Gunman began shooting after learning he was fired
Authorities said Martin brought a pistol to his termination meeting at the plant and started shooting when he found out he’d been fired.
After fatally shooting people in the room at the manufacturing business where he’d worked for 15 years, he stormed into the warehouse, witnesses said. There, he shot at more employees.
The rampage lasted about 90 minutes before police killed him in a shootout.
The gunman did not legally own the pistol he used in the attack, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said at a news conference Saturday.
A background check for a concealed-carry permit in 2014 had flagged a conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi in 1995, she said, and he had been asked to voluntarily surrender the weapon to police, Ziman said.
Why he didn’t will be part of the investigation of the incident, the police chief said.
Police on Saturday released the names of the five workers killed:
- Josh Pinkard, of Oswego, Illinois, was the plant manager. He joined the company 13 years ago at a facility in Alabama and moved to Aurora last spring, according to a letter to employees from Scott Hall, the CEO of Mueller Water Products, which owned the Henry Pratt Co.
- Clayton Parks of Elgin, Illinois, was the human resources manager. He was an alumnus of Northern Illinois University, the school’s president said in a statement. He graduated in 2014 from the College of Business. Parks also served as a 2015 allocations volunteer for United Way of Johnson County in Indiana.
- Trevor Wehner of Sheridan, Illinois, was a human resources intern and a student at Northern Illinois University. Friday was his first day as an intern at the company, according to the school president’s statement.
- Russell Beyer of Yorkville, Illinois, was a mold operator. He had worked for Henry Pratt for more than 20 years and was union chairman, Hall’s letter said.
- Vicente Juarez of Oswego, was a stock room attendant and fork lift operator. According to Hall, he joined Henry Pratt in 2006.
‘A huge bright light has left this world’
Two vigils were held on Sunday at the site with members of the suburban community joining the victims’ families to remember those shot and pray for peace.
The city estimated that more than 1,700 people withstood freezing rain at the first gathering to remember the victims.
After the vigils, members of the community carried crosses for each of the five victims in a procession from the plant to the Aurora Police Department. After the second procession, the crowd entered the police station and greeted members of law enforcement with hugs and handshakes.
“To simply offer condolences is not enough — it doesn’t measure the amount of pain that we feel for the loss we’re experiencing in this community,” Mayor Richard Irvin said at the first vigil. “Now is a time to heal. Now is a time to forgive. Now is a time to move together as a stronger community.”
But for those who lost loved ones, healing will take time.
“The world is darker and more sad now. A huge bright light has left this world,” Terra Pinkard wrote Saturday on Facebook. “I am lost and devastated beyond words. Things that mattered yesterday do not matter today. I will praise the Lord for giving me this mountain of a man. I will praise the Lord for the children we have together.”