CHICAGO: Trevor Wehner was working his first day as a human resources intern at Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, when a worker who had just been fired killed him and four of his colleagues.
Friday’s shooting rampage at the water distribution products factory and warehouse west of Chicago also killed the plant’s manager and its head of human resources. Police said the gunman later died in shootout with police.
Wehner, 21, from the village of Sheridan, Illinois, was on track to graduate in May from Northern Illinois University (NIU) with a degree in human resource management, the school said.
A friend of the family said he was a great role model and like a big brother to many boys in their small community.
“I want HIS name and picture shared not that of a cold calculated killer!!” the friend, Cindy Lou, wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of Wehner in a suit and tie.
“Our little town of Sheridan is rocked to its very core! … RIP Trevor Wehner. YOU ARE LOVED!!!”
Also among the victims was Clay Parks, the plant’s human resources manager and a resident of Elgin, Illinois.
He joined Henry Pratt in November last year, after graduating in 2014 from NIU’s College of Business.
“Loss like this is devastating and senseless,” NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman said in a statement.
Also killed was the plant manager, Josh Pinkard of Oswego, Illinois, a native of Holly Pond, Alabama, according to local television station WVTM 13.
Mueller Water Products, the parent company of Henry Pratt, said Pinkard joined Mueller in Alabama 13 years ago and moved to Aurora last year to lead the team there.
Also among the victims were Russell Beyer of Yorkville, Illinois, a mold operator with more than 20 years of experience who also served as union chairman; and Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Illinois, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator.
An unnamed male employee was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, Aurora police said. Authorities did not give the ages of the victims.
Police on Saturday named the shooter as Gary Martin, 45, an employee of the plant who they said armed himself with a handgun before reporting for the meeting at which he was fired.
Authorities said Martin killed his victims after the meeting and then fled deeper into the sprawling industrial plant, where he was later shot dead by SWAT team officers.
The city of Aurora set up an Aurora Strong Community Fund, administered by city officials, to support the victims’ families. Within five hours it had raised more than US$11,000.