‘I’ll remember him forever’: Vigil held in honor of Aurora shooting victims

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AURORA, Ill. — Hundreds attended a prayer vigil Sunday afternoon in remembrance of five people gunned down by a co-worker who was being fired in suburban Aurora on Friday.

Crosses were put up in memory of Vicente Juarez, Trevor Wehner, Josh Pinkard, Clayton Parks and Russell Beyer, as family members, friends and strangers gathered to remember the victims.

“It just means a lot that it doesn’t matter what banner you’re under but that we can all be one family,” attendee Diane Johnson said.

Members of the Juarez family said it meant so much to them for the community to come together and remember forklift operator Vincente Juarez, a grandfather of eight who was killed in the shooting.

“It’s amazing how fast things can happen,” his nephew Miguel said. “I’ll remember him forever.”

“He was a great person. A loving father. A great uncle. Shame, big shame that he was taken too soon,” said his niece Marisela Madrigal.

Pastors represented each of the victims, speaking of them with love and sadness. As the rain changed to snow, one pastor said to consider all of the men who died as snowflakes floating to the ground to console their loved ones.

“To see what is happening to our country and our great nation was disturbing to all of us Americans,” Aurora Police Department Chaplain Ed Doepel said.

Police said gunman Gary Martin, 45, likely brought his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to work Friday afternoon because he knew he was being fired from his job of 15 years. Martin, who was convicted in 1995 of aggravated assault, was not licensed to own or carry a gun.

After a background search revealed the conviction in Mississippi, Martin’s FOID card was revoked but authorities never confiscated his gun.

The other victims were identified Saturday as 21-year-old Trevor Wehner, an NIU student and an intern on his first day, Josh Pinkard, who texted his wife that he loved her before he died, Clayton Parks, a loving father and devoted husband, and Russell Beyer, who had vouched for the gunman and helped him get his job back two months before he killed him.

When the prayer vigil was over, a group walked four miles to the Aurora Police Department to put up crosses for the five officers who were injured when they ran into a spray of bullets, no doubt saving the lives of others.

A sixth employee and five Aurora police officers were also shot. All but one of the officers were released from the hospital as of Sunday afternoon, the police department said on Facebook.

“One officer remains in good condition at an area hospital where he continues to recover from gunshot wounds to his lower extremity. We are hopeful for his release soon,” the department said.

A sixth officer was treated for a minor injury sustained during the incident, but police said the injury was not related to gunfire.

Martin was previously arrested by Aurora police officers on six different occasions, including for domestic violence and traffic incidents, according to police. His last arrest in Aurora was for violating an order of protection in 2008.

“I can’t help but have an emotion of failure to some degree. I promise to expedite the programs we have been working on to place more barriers against this ever happening again in Kane County,” Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said in a post on Facebook.

Aurora officials created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for victims’ families.

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