AURORA, Ill. - It's been exactly two months since a gunman opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora. Five people lost their lives that day and five police officers were injured.
Police chief Kristen Ziman says the department and the city of Aurora will never be the same. She sat down with FOX 32 exclusively to talk about that day, and the brave officers who saved lives.
“This could happen here but it probably won't - it happens everywhere else. And then it did,” said Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman.
As chaos unfolded on February 15th, Ziman said it all happened in slow motion.
“I heard – ‘I've been hit.’ And then I heard the next one – ‘I've been hit.’ We have no idea where the shooter is, we have no idea what fire power - it was almost like - I couldn't believe it was actually happening,” she said.
Ziman says what did happen is officer training kicked in, which is something she prioritizes in her police department with a mandatory six active shooter trainings per year.
“I firmly believe that you fall to the level of your training. You don't rise to the level of the expectations; you absolutely fall to the level of your training,” she said. “Everyone that day, those officers on the scene, as they went in, and ran towards gunfire, and then kept getting hit. They did not retreat at all. From the time the first officer got on the scene and got shot, no other victims were hit. Just our police officers. So that tells me that they saved lives that day.”
Ziman says one of the officers shot is already back to work, with the other four hoping to return soon.
“They also feel as if they wish they could have done more that day, and that's going to be the feeling that we all have,” Ziman said.
Officers shot and killed the gunman, Gary Martin, who was a disgruntled employee being fired.
While the investigation was simple, Ziman says processing what happened is not.
“I needed to take a moment after the initial incident and be quiet. And just sit with those thoughts of both gratitude and devastation,” she said.
Ziman tries to cope with the tragedy by writing in her blog.
“Truth is, it's just my therapy. It's how I process things that happen. And also how I educate the public,” she said.
It's a worst-case scenario she had been preparing for her entire career.
Ziman was the first female lieutenant in the Aurora Police Department, then commander, and now chief of police.
“It never occurred to me that I would move through the ranks,” she said. “I have never felt so supported by the citizens of this community than I was after that event.”
Out of tragedy came a more unified community. They call it "Aurora Strong."
“This community came together like I have never seen,” Ziman said.