STORY UPDATED AT 6 P.M. MONDAY, FEB. 17
ST. CHARLES – The widow of an Elgin man killed in the Henry Pratt Company mass shooting in Aurora last year filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Aurora seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
Abigail Parks’ husband Clayton Parks was one of the victims killed by Gary Martin on Feb. 15, 2019 at Pratt, according to the lawsuit, filed Feb. 13 in Kane County.
Clayton Parks was one of five people killed in the mass shooting that day, according to the lawsuit.
In similar pending lawsuits against the Illinois State Police, Abigail Parks’ complaint states that she filed previous claims against the state police for failing to take Martin’s gun away from him.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office raised an “exhaustion of remedies” defense, insisting that plaintiffs must sue Aurora before pursuing legal action against the state police, according to the lawsuit.
In 1995, Martin was convicted in Mississippi of felony aggravated assault against a former girlfriend whom he hit with a baseball bat and stabbed with a knife, the lawsuit stated. Martin served three years of a five-year sentence.
After Martin moved to Aurora, police arrested him at least six times for traffic, domestic battery offenses and for violating of an order of protection, the lawsuit stated.
On Jan. 9, 2014, Martin applied for a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, which the state police issued to him when it was not legal for him to own or posses a firearm, the lawsuit stated.
Martin bought a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun on March 6, 2014, the same day he applied for a concealed-carry permit. A background check revealed his conviction in Mississippi, and Illinois State Police rejected his concealed carry application and his FOID card was revoked, the lawsuit stated.
State police had a legal obligation to inform Aurora police about Martin owning a gun so they could take action, the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit alleges that Aurora police were notified and took no action. It cites Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman’s comments at a Feb. 19, 2019 press conference, “We have no record of receiving notice from the state police back in 2014 that this person’s FOID card had been revoked. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t receive one, we just don’t have any records of that.”
Aurora police had the opportunity and obligation to contact Martin regarding his FOID revocation and seek relinquishment of his handgun, but failed to do so, the lawsuit stated.
Abigail Parks’ attorney Joshua Feagans said there was already a group of families suing the state. In speaking with the other plaintiffs’ attorneys, he learned that the Attorney General’s office was taking the stance that all other parties must be sued first.
And that meant Aurora – and the state of Mississippi.
So in addition to filing court papers this week in Kane County, Feagans said on Feb. 10, he filed a notice of intent to sue the state of Mississippi.
“I’m not at liberty to state why Mississippi would be sued,” Feagans said. “At some point, we’ll file a lawsuit and the lawsuit would state why.”
Aurora city attorney Richard J. Veenstra stated in an email response to a request for comment that attorneys reviewed the Court of Claims Act as well as the plaintiffs' filings.
"We agree with the Attorney General's conclusion that the plaintiffs cannot seek damages against the State without first seeking damages against the City," Veenstra's email stated. "We also understand the procedural choice the plaintiffs needed to make and the short timeframe available to make it. The City will seek to have these claims dismissed as expeditiously as possible so that the plaintiffs can have their day in court against the defendant they originally chose."