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Aurora remembers victims of Pratt mass shooting at candlelight vigil


One of Emily Pinkard’s first memories was of her father, Josh Pinkard, coming home from work. Every day she would stand in front of the door and wait for him.

“I waited at the door on February 14, 2019 and was planning to do the same on February 15, 2019. “Instead of waiting in front of the door, I was waiting in the hospital room, not knowing what would happen,” he said.

Josh Pinkard and four other men – Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks and Trevor Wehner – were arrested that day at Henry Pratt Co. on Aurora’s West Side. He was shot and killed when an employee pulled a gun during a dismissal meeting in his warehouse.

The gunman then fled to the warehouse and died after a shootout with police.

The city of Aurora held a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Belle Salle Banquets to remember those killed, their families and the five police officers injured during the attack.

Emily Pinkard, who told her story at the vigil, said that her father was her favorite superhero because he always remained strong for his family.

“Nothing can break it, not even kryptonite,” he said.

The names of those who lost their lives that day are now permanently etched in Aurora’s history, but also in the hearts of the community and people around the world, Mayor Richard Irvin said at the event.

Irvin honored each of the victims’ families with a plaque commemorating the victims’ birthdays; This plaque will be honored in the city from now on – February 21 was declared Russell Beyer Day, May 5 was declared Vicente Juarez Day, February 2, 2017. October 26th has been declared Clayton Parks Day, October 10th has been declared Josh Pinkard Day, and April 22nd has been declared Trevor Wehner Day.

Additionally, a granite bench was unveiled listing each victim’s name and the date of the shooting. It will be placed at Aurora Police Department headquarters.

In his speech, he said that Feb. 15, 2019, was a relatively quiet Friday afternoon and Irvin was wrapping up a long week’s work when he received the call alerting him to the active shooter. When he spoke with police command, he said he heard “extreme concern and fierce courage” in then-Police Chief Kristen Ziman’s voice.

A granite bench inscribed with the names of the victims of the 2019 mass shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora will soon be placed at the Aurora Police Department headquarters. (R. Christian Smith / The Beacon-News)

“In the following minutes, everything changed fundamentally. People were shot. Lives were lost. In a matter of minutes, we became the city dealing with the horrific mass shootings that we watch over and over on the news every year,” Irvin said.

Aurora Fire Chief David McCabe said in a statement that when he sees other mass shootings happening across the country, he will think tactically and question how he would respond in a similar situation.

The emotional impact of such a shooting didn’t take hold until 2008, when a man shot and killed five students and injured 21 others at Northern Illinois University, where McCabe attended college.

“I took a lesson in the room where the shooting took place. “I was now emotionally invested,” he said.

Largely due to a federal grant, the fire department began training with the police department in 2018 on how to handle an active shooter situation, according to McCabe.

“I don’t think anyone really thought this level of evil would emerge in our city. “We were wrong,” he said.

According to Irvin, Aurora suffered a tragedy but was not broken. She said many were able to “pull the light out of the darkness” and change the city for the better under the “Aurora Strong” mantra and spirit.

Because of the tragedy and the community response, Aurora is now a “vastly different community” than it was five years ago, he said.

“The lessons we learned have made us more united, more stable, safer and a much better community,” Irvin said. “We have angels with wings to protect us, and we have angels in uniform to protect us.”

When Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross put up his right hand to become a police officer almost 30 years ago, he knew he was in for a tough time. However, in his statement on Thursday night, he said that February 15, 2019 was one of the most difficult days of his career and that he still has difficulty making sense of it.

“What I do know is that the response of the men and women of the Aurora Police Department, the Aurora Fire Department and several other agencies that came to assist us that day saved lives,” he said.

Although they prevented what could have been a much worse situation, many of the officers who responded that day were left physically and emotionally damaged, and many of those injuries still remain, Cross said. But he said support from the community has helped the police department move forward and improve.

Cross said while he wishes there was a way to change what happened that day in the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse, he knows it’s not possible. Still, he said the force was committed to supporting those affected by the attack as they recovered.

“Our thoughts go out to the victims of this incident, as well as their families and friends. We cannot even imagine the pain and sadness they have had to endure,” he said.

Although he frequently speaks publicly and in the media, McCabe said he had difficulty writing his speech for the memorial because he could never understand what the victims’ families had gone through that day and continue to go through.

“I have never experienced the loss of a child, a sibling, or a spouse, so I do not know the pain and suffering that every family has experienced and continues to experience, but I can say that I feel for you. “I suffer for you and we all suffer,” he said.

According to McCabe, police and fire departments often present the lessons they learned that day to other first responders in the area. He said that the departments include the names of the victims in every presentation to keep their memory alive.

“On behalf of all the men and women of the Aurora Fire Department, we mourn your loss and hope that the joyful memories of your family members provide you with comfort on this difficult day,” McCabe said.

As Emily Pinkard sat in the hospital to hear the news about her father five years ago, she remembered how his father always taught her to trust God and be strong, just as he did when she had to go to the hospital. aforementioned.

“When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I spent three days in a freezing cold hospital room with only a thin blanket,” she said. “He always remained strong with us. No matter what, we could always look back at my father and see how strong he was.

“Even though I was in pain in the hospital room, my father always taught me to be strong, and so was I,” she said. “I always thought, ‘If my dad could do it, so can I.’”



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