CULLMAN COUNTY, ALA. — One of the five employees of the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora, Illinois, killed Friday by a co-worker grew up in Holly Pond, Alabama. He was identified as plant manager Josh Pinkard, 37.
Randall Shedd, a former mayor of Fairview where the Pinkard family later lived, said news of Josh’s death devastated those who were acquainted with him.
"I knew Josh and his parents,” said Shedd. “They have always been wonderful, hard-working, God-fearing people.”
Shedd continued: “This is a tragedy for the family, our communities, and our entire country. Everyone is devastated by this; Josh and his family were so well liked and respected here."
Illinois authorities said Josh had been in a meeting with the Pratt human resources director and a young human resources intern to terminate Gary Martin, a longtime plant worker, when Martin pulled a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun and shot to death all three of them.
The authorities said he then left the room, killing two other Pratt employees nearby, wounding another and then injuring five police officers in an exchange of gunfire that resulted in Martin’s death.
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said Martin obtained the handgun under false pretenses when he failed to mention on his 2014 application for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Card that he had a felony crime record. State authorities only detected the problem later when Martin requested a concealed carry permit, which required fingerprinting. He was denied the permit and his gun owner’s card revoked. But Martin continued to possess the gun.
Martin, 45, had six arrests over the years in Aurora, for what Ziman described as "traffic and domestic battery-related issues" and for violating an order of protection. He also had a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault of a woman in Mississippi that should have prevented him from buying a gun, Ziman said.
The police chief described Martin as a disgruntled employee who “walked in and had access to a firearm that he shouldn’t have had access to. I don’t want to make it political. This is a human issue. Lives were lost.”
Pinkard had worked for the Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products, parent company of the Pratt plant, for 13 years. He was promoted from a facility in Albertville, Alabama, to plant manager in Aurora, a western suburb of Chicago, in April of 2018.
He graduated from Holly Pond High School in 1982 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Mississippi State University, where he met his wife, Terra, of Laurel, Mississippi. He also earned a master's degree from the University of Alabama. They were the parents of three children -- a daughter and two sons.
His mother, Bobbie, and uncle, the Rev. David Chambers, grew up in Fairview, where his father, Tim, and his mother now live. Both Holly Pond and Fairview are in Cullman County in northern Alabama.
"Josh was probably one of the most likable people you would ever meet," said Chambers, minister of the First Baptist Church of Fairview. "He was athletic and loved sports. He was a great husband and father.
"Ultimately, it goes back to he was a solid Christian, and he loved people. If you met him, you knew he was genuine, and that's why he made so many friends. You couldn't find people who didn't like him, because they knew he was sincere."
Chambers said Pinkard's family has received prayers and condolences from across the community and country.
"Some we have known a long time, and some we haven't," Chambers said. "We have heard from people across the United States. There has been a lot of love and prayers and that means a lot to us."
In addition to his wife, children, parents, aunts and uncles, Pinkard is survived by a twin sister, Gidget Wright of Cullman County.
David Palmer is the editor of the Cullman, Alabama, Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.