UPDATE — February 26, 2016: Paul Mullet, President and CEO of Excel Industries, issues a statement about the shootings at the company by an employee on Feb. 25 that led to the deaths of 4 employees, including the shooter. Officials have now identified the shooter as Cedric Ford, 38. Twelve other employees were injured and two others were injured elsewhere.
HESSTON, Kan. — A shooting by an Excel Industries employee at the company’s plant in Hesston, Kan., resulted in 4 deaths late Thursday afternoon, including the shooter, according to officials. There were 12 other victims, also Excel employees, as well as two other people who were shot earlier, in the nearby city of Newton and in Hesston. Excel Industries manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowers and employees 1,000 people.
The names of the shooter and the victims have not yet been released and the reason for the shootings is being investigated, says Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton.
Paul Mullet, Excel Industries President and CEO, addressed media during a news conference, sharing his condolences and saying, "We're going to do what we can to take care of them and bring them through this tragedy."
A hotline has been established for employees.
The first shootings were reported late in the afternoon in Newton, where the man shot at two people, injuring one of them. He stole their vehicle and proceeded to Hesston, which is 8 miles north of Newton, where he shot another person on U.S. 81.
The man then proceeded to Excel Industries, 200 S. Ridge Road, Hesston, shooting one person in the parking lot prior to entering the building, where he continued shooting. A police officer entered the plant, shooting and killing the man at about 5:45 p.m., according to reports.
The other victims were taken to nearby hospitals. Sheriff Walton expected to release the names on Friday morning after gathering more information.
Gunfire at the plant started just a few hours into the second shift, just after employees had taken their first break. It began near the paint line, employees said.
An employee who said he was in the plant said he heard gunshots and people shouting to get out of the building.
“Everybody was running,” said the employee, who did not want to give his name.
He said the man, whom he recognized as a co-worker, seemed to be on a rampage.
“He was coming at everybody,” the employee said.
He said he noticed two weapons: an AK-47 and some type of handgun.
Marty Pierce said he was working in the welding shop when he heard the paint guys yelling, “Fire. Fire. Fire.”
He said he thought the building was on fire and was ready to leave when he heard a pop, pop, pop and saw people scattering and running outside. He left the building through a side door. He said he ran into a female co-worker who said the shooter followed her outside. She hid behind a tree.
Jacob Hershberger, 20, said he was working on the mower line about 30 yards from the paint line when he heard three gunshots. At first he thought the guys on the paint line were building something. Then he heard six more shots, and heard someone yell, ‘Those are gun shots. You need to get out of here.”
He said he ran by one person who had been shot in the leg. He and other workers saw a second worker who had been shot in the back. They loaded him onto a pallet and put him in the back of a motorized cart, and drove him out of the plant, urging him to keep his eyes open and stay awake. A law enforcement officer directed them to hide behind a grassy hill until the shooting stopped.
This post was updated February 26, 2016.