On Wednesday night, Excel Industries employee Brian Johnson got into a fight with co-worker Cedric Ford about “stupid stuff,” mostly over Ford’s fear that he was about to get fired. Johnson thought that they’d mend fences at work the next day.
The two worked together at the lawn care company in Hesston, Kansas, but as Johnson’s afternoon shift began, his friend was gone. The man told The Washington Post that he must have got to “pick up his guns, I guess.”
Around 5 p.m., the Kansas plant became the site of the country’s 49th mass shooting. Johnson heard gunshots about that time and his boss yelled that someone had a gun. Later, co-workers said Cedric had been shooting at him — but every bullet missed.
“Every foot track that I took he was right behind me, all the way through the plant.”
As he sat in a hospital in the small Kansas city, waiting to hear how his injured co-workers were fairing, he still couldn’t understand why Cedric perpetrated the shooting, injuring 14 people and killing three.
According to NBC News, the shooting lasted 26 minutes. It began when local police were dispatched to two eerily similar calls — two people with gunshot wounds. The injured were shot in two separate nearby towns in this rural area of Kansas, 30 minutes from Wichita.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 26, 2016
— Voice of America (@VOANews) February 26, 2016
The shooter fired at people from his car in the towns of Newton and Hesston, ABC News reported. He hit two vehicles first, injuring one person. Then he drove to a spot near the highway and shot another person in the leg.
He drove to his workplace next. He shot one person in the parking lot and was then seen by witnesses “entering the building with a long gun” before he “opened fire inside the building.”
An employee named Michael Dellinger, 20, described the scene inside. He and co-workers had just left a safety meeting when he heard a popping noise, which at first, he thought nothing of. But then he saw Ford standing in the doorway to the parking lot. And he was holding a gun.
He immediately started shooting at the paint line.
“Then he turned toward our line. I grabbed the guy next to me and said ‘Run, there’s a gun.'”
Everyone ran to the closest door. People were yelling around him, bullets pinging off factory equipment all around him. A fellow employee, Austin McCaskill, described the shooter as “running through the plant just going crazy with a gun … just randomly shooting people.”
The sheriff of this rural Kansas county, T. Walton, said that when police finally arrived on scene, Ford was “actively shooting at any targets that came into his sights.”
— KAKE News (@KAKEnews) February 26, 2016
The first officer on scene went into the site of the active shooting alone. The officer, who’s being called a hero and hasn’t been identified, killed the gunman as he dodged a barrage of gunfire himself. The sheriff lauded the lone cop, who “saved a lot of lives.”
Five shooting victims are now in critical condition in local Kansas hospitals, one required surgery, and eight are in stable condition. For now, the sheriff’s department have hinted that they’ve identified a motive for the shooting, and were quick to note it wasn’t terrorism.
After the shooting in this peaceful Kansas community, the gunman’s criminal record and his co-workers’ vague but pervasive feelings that something about was “real off” about him have come to light. Ford was a felon with a long criminal record, charged in 1996 with carrying a concealed firearm. He’d also been convicted on a number of charges in Florida, including burglary.
Earlier this month, his live-in girlfriend accused him of assault. After he allegedly placed her in a chokehold, she told police he was an “alcoholic, violent, depressed” and “in desperate need of medical & psychological help!”
Dellinger said staff at Excel have been talking about the shooting and the gunman’s motive. He said the man gave him a “bad gut feeling.” Whatever was going on, McCaskill didn’t think it justified shooting people at work.
“He was having a bunch of problems. But you don’t need to go blasting up a plant because you’ve got problems.”
[Image via Broward Sheriff’s Office]