Kansas Sheriff’s Office Identifies Suspect, Motive In Deadly Workplace Shooting
HESSTON, Kansas (CNN) — [Breaking news update, published at 9:44 a.m. ET]
The man who fatally shot three people and wounded at least 14 others Thursday in central Kansas was Cedric Ford, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said Friday.
Walton, in a news conference Friday morning, detailed a timeline of the shootings. The first person Ford shot was a man driving with his two children, Walton said.
Walton said the gunman later shot and wounded a second person, stealing that person’s car, before heading to Excel Industries — the lawn car company where Ford worked and where most of the casualties in Thursday’s shootings happened. A 911 call came in at about 5 p.m. CT.
Ford was armed with an assault rifle and an automatic pistol, Walton said.
Excel Industries’ CEO, Paul Mullet. said Friday that his first priority is his employees’ “safety and wellness.” Mullet added that his company is fully cooperating with law enforcement agencies and the Red Cross.
[Original story, published at 8:44 a.m. ET]
A Kansas sheriff’s deputy served a man a “protection from abuse” order just 1½ hours before that man began opening fire — a flurry of bullets that ended with at least 14 wounded and three dead before the shooter was shot and killed.
While it wasn’t immediately clear what led to the protection order, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said, “I believe that probably is the trigger, and it went from there.”
All of those killed and all but two of those wounded Thursday were struck in and around the building of the gunman’s employer, a lawn care equipment manufacturer in Hesston, Kansas, authorities said.
The Harvey County Sheriff’s Office indicated Thursday that 10 of the 14 wounded were critical.
Their conditions may have changed since, though. Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, had one in critical, two in serious and four in fair condition Friday morning, spokeswoman Roz Hutchinson said. Three of the four being treated at Wesley Medical Center are serious and the other is fair, said Susan Burchill, the spokeswoman there. CNN is waiting to hear back from one other hospital were victims are believed to be.
The carnage left people grasping for answers in Hesston, a small city of about 3,700 people located about 35 miles north of Wichita. While authorities hunt for these, Harvey County’s sheriff said that residents “are ready to start grieving.”
“Everybody says it can’t happen here,” Walton said. “And here we are. It happened here.”
Friend: Shooter ‘hopped out with the gun on’
Dispatchers got the first call at 4:57 p.m. (5:57 p.m. ET) with reports of a male in a gray Dodge opening fire, according to Walton.
A man was shot in the shoulder, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. Another person was reportedly shot in the leg about two miles north.
Minutes later, authorities received multiple reports of shots fired at Excel Industries, where an estimated 150 people were working at the time, according to Walton.
One of those workers was Matt Jarrell, who identified the shooter as his colleague and friend Cedric Ford to CNN affiliate KSNW.
Moments before the two clocked in at work at the same time Thursday, they were talking about Ford’s new truck, Jarrell said.
About two hours into his shift, it was time for Jarrell’s break. Ford was supposed to relieve him, he said, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Jarrell went outside, and the new truck was gone. A few minutes later, Ford returned in a different car, he said.
“He just parked and then opened up the door, hopped out with the gun on, strapped-up and everything,” Jarrell said.
Ford yelled “hey” at a bystander nearby and then shot that person, Jarrell said.
“I witnessed him shoot the shots. I saw the shell casings come out of the assault rifle,” he said. “I mean, that vivid. I can still see it.”
The whole episode shocked Jarrell, who “never in a million years” would have expected his friend to do something like this.
“He was a mellow guy,” Jarrell said. “He was somebody I could talk to about anything.”
‘Pop, pop’ and screaming, witness recalls
Another Excel employee, identified as Dylan by KSNW, rubbed blood from his hands — which came from helping a man who’d been shot — as he recalled the chaotic, horrific scene.
“We heard a pop, pop, and we thought it was just metal falling on the ground, and then the doors opened, people started screaming, coming out,” he said. “We really didn’t know what was going on.”
Matt Gerald told The Hesston Record newspaper that he was outside on break when he saw the shooter.
“I saw the shooter get out of his truck, shoot someone down and go into the building,” Gerald said. “I was flabbergasted. I was at a loss for words.”
The gunman had a long gun and a pistol, according to Walton. He said the victims appear to have been randomly targeted.
Authorities were on the scene at 5:06 p.m. local time — minutes after the first reports came in, according to a timeline shown to reporters.
The first law enforcement officer to arrive on the scene, from the Hesston police department, was alone, and single-handedly took down the shooter.
“Even though he took fire, he went inside of that place and saved multiple, multiple lives,” Walton said. “[He’s] a hero, as far as I’m concerned.”
‘This will take some time’
Walton said authorities are expected to release the name of the officer on Friday morning.
No law enforcement official was injured.
A witness told CNN affiliate KWCH that outside the shooting, many cried, hugged and tried to find answers.
“I’ve never experienced that before,” he said as he choked up. “You think you’re safe at work and you’re not. It’s just scary.”
Gov. Sam Brownback offered his condolences to the people of Hesston. He ordered flags flown at half-staff Friday.
“This will take some time to work through,” Walton said.
“This is just a horrible incident,” the sheriff said. “It’s going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over.”