The failure of Illinois State Police to catch a felony conviction of a man who obtained a Firearms Owner and Identification card, then allegedly killed five people in Aurora with a legally purchased gun, isn’t the first time a conviction has slipped past state police.
Gary Martin, 45, is dead after getting in a shootout with police on Friday, when he allegedly killed five coworkers at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, reportedly during a meeting where he was being terminated. Another coworker was wounded, police say, and five officers were hurt in a shootout with Martin, who was shot to death.
Martin had a substantial criminal record, including a 1995 felony assault conviction in Mississippi, police say. He’d been arrested by Aurora police six times, including for incidents that involved domestic violence.
Felons aren’t allowed to own guns in Illinois and so the Mississippi conviction by itself should have prevented Martin from buying a gun. Instead, Illinois State Police in 2014 issued Martin a Firearm Owner’s and Identification card, which is required for gun purchases and is issued by police after a background check.
After obtaining his FOID card in January, 2014, Martin bought a pistol from a gun dealer. The Mississippi conviction was picked up after Martin was fingerprinted when he subsequently applied for a concealed weapons permit. Once state police caught that, his FOID card was revoked. By then, it was too late. According to police and media reports, Martin used the gun he purchased in 2014 to kill.
Illinois State Police did not immediately respond to questions about why Martin was able to get a FOID card despite being a felon. But it wasn’t the first time that a criminal has come up clean in a state police check.
In 2016, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation hired Tashika Miner as a health services investigator even though she was a felon. As an investigator, she was tasked with conducting investigations in to doctors, chiropractors and physician’s assistants. Her position gave her access to patient files and required her to testify in court and in regulatory or administrative hearings.
Miner previously had been a caseworker with the state Department of Human Services. Before that, she was a Chicago police officer for five years. Her days as a cop ended in 2006, after she was caught up in a drug investigation. According to an inspector general’s report issued in 2017, Miner obtained confidential information from police databases, including a database maintained by the FBI, and turned the information over to a street gang leader, who used it to help determine whether police vehicles were following him and how he could best hide drug paraphernalia from police. In 2007, Miner pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to possess a kilogram or more of heroin, 400 grams or more of fentanyl and at least 50 grams of crack. She got a 10-month sentence.
None of that was caught when state police conducted a background check on Miner when IDFPR hired her: “A search of the files of this bureau made pursuant to the…name based inquiry submitted by your agency failed to reveal any criminal conviction for the subject in question,” state police wrote in a response to the department’s request for background check.
According to the inspector general, the check conducted by state police didn’t include a check of federal or out-of-state records. And so Miner passed muster because she’d been convicted in federal court. State police told the inspector general that the law enforcement agency needed fingerprints to check federal court convictions via the FBI, and that would have required a fee paid to both the FBI and to the vendor that operates machinery that takes and records fingerprints.
State police did not immediately respond to emails asking whether the process that failed to pick up Miner's federal conviction was the same as the one that didn’t spot Martin's assault conviction before he obtained a FOID card.
Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said that sheriffs can object when someone applies for a concealed weapons permit, but not a FOID card. He said he’d like to see the system changed so that sheriffs have the same power when someone asks for a FOID card.
“Absolutely,” Campbell said. “In a way, they almost go hand-in-hand. We would like to have the same say-so with regard to a FOID card as with a concealed-carry permit.” Even so, the state Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, which determines whether to sustain objections from sheriffs, has thrown out more than 80 percent of objections lodged by sheriffs with concerns about applicants for concealed carry licenses.
At IDFPR, Miner was flagged by a coworker who searched the internet and spotted a newspaper article about her crimes committed while she was a Chicago cop. According to the inspector general, the Department of Human Services, where Miner worked before IDFPR gave her a job, told state investigators that a criminal background check would not have been done because her job didn’t involve “direct care.”
Miner disclosed her federal conviction in her employment application, writing “2007, conspiracy” in the space asking whether she’d been convicted of a criminal offense. When an IDFPR supervisor who learned about Miner’s conviction told Susan Gold, the department’s deputy director of statewide enforcement for the division of public regulation, about the federal court conviction, Gold “told him there was no problem with Ms. Miner’s employment because she passed a criminal background check conducted by ISP,” the inspector general reported.
The inspector general found no fault with Gold or state police. Rather, the inspector general determined that an IDFPR human resources specialist was guilty of malfeasance for failing to tell anyone about the inconsistency between the ISP criminal history report and the employment application in which Miner disclosed her criminal past and also for not inquiring about the inconsistency. The inspector general also found that IDFPR broke the law by failing to establish a documented review process for evaluating criminal histories of job applicants.
Miner remains on the job at IDFPR. She was paid $55,300 last year.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.