HR Management & Compliance

What We Can Learn from the Workplace Shooting in Aurora, Illinois

On Friday, February 15, 2019, a gunman named Gary Martin shot and killed five of his coworkers, wounded one coworker, and injured five police officers.


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The incident occurred in the middle of the afternoon in Aurora, Illinois, at the Henry Pratt Company, where Martin and the victims worked, during and after a meeting in which Martin was being fired. Using information released in news reports, here is what we can learn from this tragic workplace shooting.

Thorough Background Checks are Essential

Martin had applied for and was issued a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card in 2014 in Illinois and used it to acquire a handgun—the same handgun that was used in the shooting incident.
It wasn’t until after the February shooting that investigators found he lied on question two on the FOID application—”Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Martin answered “no,” even though he had been convicted and incarcerated for aggravated assault in Mississippi in the early 1990s and was released from prison in 1997.
What’s more, Martin’s concealed carry license application was denied because of his prior felony conviction and incarceration, and he was told to surrender his FOID card and handgun, which he never did.
Regardless of whether Martin’s employer knew of his criminal background, this particular incident demonstrates why thorough background checks are essential to preventing workplace shootings.

On-Premise Security Is Important

Because there were no security checks or metal detectors on-site, Martin was able to bring his handgun into his workplace undetected. Although employees may not like on-premise security protocols, there should be some security checks in place. In this particular case, security officers could have been present in the meeting as Martin was being fired, and his managers could have taken extra security precautions when firing him had they known about his criminal history.

The Warning Signs Are Usually There

Martin’s violent history spanned decades; not only was he incarcerated for aggravated assault in the 1990s, but he also was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2017, had restraining orders against him, and was a perpetrator for multiple accounts of domestic violence. Also, Martin anticipated being fired, as he brought a handgun to work on the day of his meeting.

All Employees Are at Risk for Becoming Victims

Three of the workplace shooting victims were present in the meeting with Martin, and the other two were shot and killed nearby after the meeting took place, demonstrating that if there is an active shooter in the workplace, all employees are at risk for becoming victims.
As you implement your workplace safety programs, consider the information and lessons learned from the shooting in Aurora, Illinois.

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