An employee opened fire inside an Illinois warehouse - killing five people and wounding five police officers - after finding out that he had been fired, authorities said.

Gary Martin, 45, shot several employees Friday (Saturday NZ time), the same day he learned he had been terminated from his job, and immediately began shooting at police officers after they arrived at the warehouse in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters. Martin, who was armed with a Smith & Wesson handgun, was killed about an hour later.

"I hate that we have to use the term classic workplace shooting, that pains me to do so. At this time I don't know," Ziman told reporters. "Again, we can only surmise that with a gentleman who's being terminated that this was something he intended to do."

This undated booking photo provided by the Aurora Illinois Police Department shows Gary Montez Martin, who police say killed multiple people at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse. Photo / AP
This undated booking photo provided by the Aurora Illinois Police Department shows Gary Montez Martin, who police say killed multiple people at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse. Photo / AP

Investigators have said little else that would explain the rampage, including why Martin was fired, whether the victims were his co-workers or supervisors, or if he was already carrying the gun at the time of his termination. Police also have not said where and how Martin obtained the gun.

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The Aurora Police Department is scheduled to have another news conference today.

The five wounded officers were taken to local hospitals, two of whom were transferred at trauma centers, authorities said. One warehouse employee suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Several 911 calls came just before 1:30pm Friday (local time). Martin fired at the first officers to arrive at the 29,000-square-foot warehouse of Henry Pratt Co., which manufactures water valves. The gunfire continued as more officers arrived. Police later confronted Martin inside the building. He fired at the officers, who then killed him, according to the police department.

Authorities search an apartment complex in Aurora where the gunman who fatally shot several people is believed to have lived. Photo / AP
Authorities search an apartment complex in Aurora where the gunman who fatally shot several people is believed to have lived. Photo / AP

Gabriel Gonzales, an Iraq War Marine veteran who can see the Henry Pratt warehouse from his front yard, said the number of police vehicles, flashing lights and armoured cars Friday afternoon were giving him flashbacks.

"When you are a combat zone you expect it," said Gonzales. "I've never seen this many police officers anywhere."

He was watching his grandchildren, who were mesmerised by the activity unfolding through the window, and worrying about their brother Anthony, whose school was put under lock down.

"My grandson had a school lockdown at 8 years old. I mean, can you believe that?" Gonzalez said. "Back when I was a kid, it was just tornadoes."

At the news conference, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said the shooting marked "a sad day in the city."

"For so many years, we've seen similar situations throughout our nation," he said. "To experience it firsthand is even more painful."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker lauded the efforts of law enforcement officers and first responders before lamenting the "epidemic of gun violence that continues to ravage so many communities."

The victims' families, he said, "join a group that should not exist, yet continues to grow."

Tiffany Probst, 38, a legal assistant said her best friend saw a post on Facebook about the shooting and she started texting "that your dad might be inside!"

Her father, John, has worked as a machinist in the building for over 40 years. He has three grown children and has five grandchildren. Probst raced down to the factory, but it was blocked by police.

"I knew there was no way to call him because he's old school and never has a cellphone," then she heard from friends father was giving TV interviews and talking with the police.

"He's safe and talking to the news," she said. "He's not much of a talker, but when it comes to this, I can tell by his voice he's real shaken up. We are looking forward to giving him a hug."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., tweeted Friday that she was following the situation. "This is a scary, sad day for all Illinoisans and Americans," Duckworth wrote. "Thank you to the brave first responders who risked their lives this afternoon and apprehended the shooter."

First responders and emergency vehicles are gathered near the scene of the shooting. Photo / AP
First responders and emergency vehicles are gathered near the scene of the shooting. Photo / AP

"My heart breaks for Aurora," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., tweeted. "I'm tracking updates on the situation with my staff. Thank you to the members of law enforcement who are responding to the emergency."

The shooting occurred just a day after the first anniversary of a mass shooting that killed 17 students and staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The young survivors have since become among the loudest advocates for stronger gun laws, spurring a social media movement with the hashtag #NeverAgain. Their activism has led to the creation of the student-led demonstration, March for our Lives.

Nancy Caal, who works at Erwin's Truck Repair near the scene of the shooting, told The Post that she heard the din of sirens as police cars and ambulances rushed to the building behind hers.

She and two others put the shop on lockdown when they saw heavily armed officers heading toward the adjacent Henry Pratt warehouse.

"Nobody told us nothing," she said. "But we closed the gates and locked down the shop."

News reports of an active shooter there confirmed their fears shortly after.

"We are kind of nervous," Caal said. "It looks like something big is going on out there."