CHICAGO (CBS)–A survivor of the fatal shooting that killed five people last month in Aurora has filed a lawsuit against Illinois State Police, seeking $2 million in damages; for issuing him a gun license despite a previous felony conviction, and failing to make sure he surrendered his gun when that license was revoked.
Shooter Gary Martin shot Timothy Williams, an employee who worked at the Henry Pratt Company, gunfire striking him in the back and on the arm, according to the lawsuit filed Friday.
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said after the shooting that Martin, 45, was not legally in possession of the firearm he used to open fire inside the manufacturing plant.
State police later said that when Martin applied for a Firearm Owner’s Identification card in 2014, their criminal background check did not reveal a 1995 conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi.
The conviction wasn’t discovered until five days later, in a new background check after Martin applied for a concealed carry license and submitted his fingerprints to speed up the application.
Illinois State Police revealed in the weeks after the shooting that Martin’s Mississippi arrest did not show up in databases because his Mississippi state identification number did not appear in the system until Thursday, more than two decades after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault involving a former girlfriend.
State police also acknowledged lapses in enforcement of FOID card laws, after a review of how Martin was allowed to keep his gun after his FOID card was revoked. That gun was the weapon Martin used to kill five people and wound six others at the Henry Pratt Company.
A statement from the Chicago law firm representing Williams, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims, P.C., reads, in part: “Sadly, because of the Illinois State Police’s failures, the Aurora Police Department was never made aware that Mr. Martin continued to illegally possess this firearm, even though the Aurora Police Department encountered Mr. Martin after the Illinois State Police discovered their mistake, but still long before Mr. Martin engaged in his heinous atrocities at the Henry Pratt Company.”
After state authorities learned of Martin’s felony conviction in 2014, police revoked his FOID card, and sent him a letter stating he needed to relinquish his gun and license.
However, Illinois State Police said they have no record they notified the Aurora Police Department that Martin’s FOID card had been revoked.
While that doesn’t mean a letter was not sent to Aurora police, as the state keeps such records for only three years, Aurora police have said they also have no records they were notified Martin’s FOID card had been revoked.
According to data provided by Illinois State Police, such lapses in returning a revoked FOID card or surrendering a weapon as required are all too common.
More than 10,000 FOID cards were revoked last year, according to Illinois State Police. Whenever a FOID card is revoked, the state requires the license holder to submit a “Firearm Disposition Record” notifying police they have disposed of any weapons they owned. However, in more than 75 percent of the cases last year when a FOID card was revoked, license holders never told police they had surrendered their weapons.
From 2014 through 2019, only 110 people were arrested for failing to return a revoked FOID card or failing to submit a “Firearm Disposition Record”.
Last year, there were only 10 such arrests statewide.