Four people, including the gunman, have been killed in the Kansas shooting Thursday, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said at a press conference, confirming the death toll. Meanwhile, local reports said that a man from Miami, Florida, who has been arrested several times before, was the suspect.
At least 14 people were injured in the shooting that occurred around 5:00 p.m., local time, (6 p.m. EST) at the Excel Industries facility in the town of Hesston, and on the roads between Hesston and Newton, Kansas.
Walton said that authorities have a few details to determine what triggered the gunman to go on the shooting rampage, but he did not reveal more information. The sheriff also revised the estimates of injured people and the death toll. He initially said that seven people were dead and about 30 people were injured.
Walton did not reveal the identity of the gunman, but local media reports said that the shooter was Cedric Ford, who worked as a painter at the Excel facility, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
A report by ABC News, which cited two law enforcement officers familiar with the investigation, said that the suspect was indeed Ford, a 38-year-old Excel employee. Before Kansas, Ford lived in Miami and was arrested in 2004 for violating a probation that stemmed from burglary and grand theft charges. He pleaded no contest in the case, according to the record from Broward County, Florida. He also has arrests dating back to 1996, on charges like burglary, concealed firearms and battery charges.
KWCH, a local news network, reported that SWAT team officials cleared the scene of Ford's residence in Newton. Erin McDaniel, a spokeswoman for the city of Newton, said, according to Associated Press (AP), that the suspect was known to local authorities, but did not reveal anything more about the gunman.
Walton said that the gunman first fired the shots from his car at two motorists. He then stole a pickup truck of one of the victims and headed to the facility. He also used his assault rifle to shoot a woman in the parking lot, before opening fire in the Hesston facility that makes lawn mower products.
Walton said, according to the AP, that about 150 people were likely inside the facility when the shooting began. The injured people were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
“Inside the building, he shot a total of 15 people. Four were killed, including himself, the shooter,” Walton said, according to KSN-TV, a local news network, adding: “There is still some ongoing situations happening right now that we are trying to take care of. We have a team of agents that will be entering Excel and doing the investigation in there.
“We have a number of crime scenes that we have to take care of. The largest one being at the Excel industries. All of those are being looked at, and worked,” Walton said, revealing that the weapon was a long gun “like an assault rifle in a .223 round.” He also said that the officer who first entered the facility and shot the gunman saved “many, many lives,” AFP reported.
Martin Espinoza, another employee at the facility, reportedly described the shooter as a co-worker and said that he was typically a calm person.
Espinoza said that the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger but it was empty. “I took off running. He came outside after a few people, shot outside a few times, shot at the officers coming onto the scene at the moment and then reloaded in front of the company,” Espinoza told the AP, adding: “After he reloaded he went inside the lobby in front of the building and that is the last I seen him.”
The governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, issued a statement late Thursday after the shooting and said, according to the AP, that it was a “tragedy that affects every member of the community.”
“State law enforcement agencies are supporting the local authorities and I will provide any support to help them and the entire community in the days and weeks to come,” Brownback said.