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The Hesston Record
347 B Old Hwy 81
Hesston, KS 67062
(620) 327-4831

3 PM Friday Press Conference Update: Victims Names Officially Released

Posted 2/26/2016

By BLAKE SPURNEY

Hesston Record Staff

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton identified the three victims who were killed as Brian Sadowsky, 44, Renee Benjamin, 30 and Joshua Higbee, 31.

Walton also gave updates on some of those who were injured.

Of the six people taken to Newton Medical Center, three have been treated and released, one was transferred to Wesley Medical Center and two are listed in good condition.

Walton gave a summary of the law-enforcement resources being used in the investigation. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and FBI each have 45 agents, the Kansas Highway Patrol has 46 and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has 15.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson said 11 of the 14 victims had been interviewed. Three others have not been interviewed due to their medical condition. Anyone with information about the mass shooting is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Jackson said members of the FBI evidence response team were embedded with KBI agents. The FBI has five teams involved in evidence recovery.

“We will be here until this task is completed,” he said.

KBI Director Kirk Thompson said the investigation would take “many more days.” He added that authorities would get answers out to the community when the information became available.

Walton said resources were available for those who have been affected by the tragedy. That information can be found on the city of Newton website at www.newtonkansas.com.

Hesston City Administrator Gary Emry said recovery would take months. He also said it was the city’s responsibility to help heal those affected and to be there for their families. Anyone seeking counseling services can call 211 or Prairie View Mental Health Center at 800-362-0180.

Emry said Hesston Community Foundation funds would be used to help first responders and rescue workers deal with the tragedy. He also cautioned donors about giving money to a gofundme.com website that has been established.

Walton said the press conference at 3 p.m. Friday would be the last one unless information of significant value came forward.

 

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Mowers Showing Up On Hesston Lawns

Posted 2/26/2016

A movement around the Hesston community to show support for Excel has people putting their Excel mowers on their front lawns and front of their businesses. This photo was taken at the Hesston Golf Course.

Schowalter Villa put out this release: In support of Excel Industries, Bluestem Communities is encouraging residents and businesses to display their Hustler mowers on their lawns. Feel free to decorate them with flowers and words of encouragement as well. Please join us in this movement as we show our support for the friends, family and community affected by this unfortunate event.

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Police Chief Doug Schroeder Killed Excel Shooter

Posted 2/26/2016

Gov. Sam Brownback visited Hesston Friday and told reporters that Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder shot and killed the shooter in Excel Thursday.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton has said the officer who entered the building saved many lives by taking out the gunman.

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Counseling Available At Hesston MB Church

Posted 2/26/2016

Several community agencies are gathered to give support Friday at Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church, 610 W. Randall in Hesston.
EMPAC, an organization provided by Excel Industries; Prairie View, a counseling service from Newton; Tina Payne of Harvey County United Way and volunteers from the Community Chaplain Response Team, are all at the church for those affected by yesterday’s shooting.
Payne said the group was coordinated late Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday morning.
“We were very intentional about this group. There are people here from EMPAC to help Excel employees and the community. The faith community has also really stepped up and offered help,” she said.
Payne added there is a location at Salem Mennonite Church for Newton residents with similar professional and faith-based personnel.
“Harvey County is unique. We take care of our own. We had a lot of existing resources, like Prairie View and the Community Chaplain Response Team,” she said.
Payne said The Red Cross, USD 460, New Jerusalem Mission in Newton and the Salvation Army responded Thursday night and set up a crisis center at Hesston High School.
“They were all invaluable and I want to give credit where credit is due,” she said.

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Update: 9 PM Press Conference On Hesston Shooting

Posted 2/25/2016

By BLAKE SPURNEY

Hesston Record Staff

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton has confirmed that three people were killed and 14 injured during the mass shooting Thursday by an Excel Industries employee.

Walton said confusion about the earlier number of estimated victims stemmed from the fact that many names were duplicates. At a 9 p.m. press conference, he said the bodies of three victims and the shooter would remain in the Excel plant until 15 Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents completed their crime-scene investigation.

Walton did not release the name of the shooter, but he has been identified as Cedric Ford, 38, of Newton. Authorities have set up an emergency response team outside Ford's residence on Wagon Wheel Drive in Newton because a roommate would not give consent to enter the residence. Walton said authorities were in the process of getting a search warrant.

"We will make entry," he said.

Walton did not provide a motive, though he indicated that authorities have determined one.

"There were some things that triggered this particular situation for this individual," he said.

Walton also provided this timeline of events:

• At 4:57 p.m., authorities received the first report of a shooting at 12th and Meridian in Newton. A man was shot in the shoulder in his vehicle. The shooter shot at another vehicle, but the woman driving it was not injured. Both shots were fired from his vehicle.

• A short time later, a motorist was shot in the leg at Meridian and Hesston Roads, and the shooter stole a silver or gray pickup.

• The shooter drove north on Old Highway 81 and parked on the north side of Excel, where he shot a third victim in the parking lot. The shooter then entered the plant on the northeast side of the building near the painting area.

• At 5:23, a Hesston police officer killed the shooter after taking fire.

"Saved multiple, multiple lives," Walton said. "A hero, as far as I'm concerned."

Officer Chris Carter identified the weapon as a rifle using 7.62-mm rounds.

"The shooter was firing at any target that crossed his sights," Walton said.

About 150 second-shift employees were in the plant during the mass shooting.

"The victims are at various locations in the plant, and the shooter is in the office area," Carter said.

Walton said 10 of the victims were in critical condition, while four were in stable condition. Six victims were taken to St. Francis Medical Center, four to Wesley Medical Center and four to Newton Medical Center.

Authorities are setting up a hotline that families can use to check on loved ones. Hesston High School is being used as a gathering place for family members, and ministers will be on hand to help families.

Paul Mullet, Excel president and CEO, said his heart went out to all of the families.

"We're going to do what we can to take care of them through this tragedy," he said.

Excel also is setting up a hotline for employees. It will remain closed during the investigation, which is expected to be a lengthy process. Nearly 200 people need to be interviewed.

"We're going as methodically as we can," Walton said.

Agencies involved in the investigation include the sheriff's office, Hesston and Newton police, the KBI, Kansas Highway Patrol, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Walton expressed the difficulty of dealing with such a tragedy, and he said Hesston was a peaceful town.

"Everyone says it can't happen here, but it's almost those places where it happens at," he said.

Walton also said someone in his office received a call from the White House.

 

 

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Sheriff: Hesston Police, State Troopers Confronted Shooter, Killing Him

Posted 2/25/2016

By BLAKE SPURNEY


An Excel employee killed between four and seven people and injured at least 20 others Thursday evening during a shooting rampage that began in Newton, said Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton in a news conference at King Memorial Park.
The shooter was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement inside the Excel plant. Walton said the shooter was armed with a long gun and pistol.
“We know he was shooting the rifle,” he said.
Authorities are busy processing at least four crime scenes. Walton said he believed the shooter lived in Harvey County. Authorities are still working on a motive, and a team of investigators has been sent to his house.
The first report of a shooting came at 5 p.m. at 12th and Meridian in Newton, where Walton said a man in a pickup was shot in the shoulder. A second person in a vehicle was shot in the leg at Meridian and Hesston Roads.
“He was shooting from his vehicle into other vehicles,” Walton said.
The shooter drove north on Old Highway 81 to the Excel parking lot, where the third victim was shot, Walton said. The shooter then entered Excel and shot at least 20 people. Walton said all of the confirmed deaths occurred within the plant.
Of those injured, Walton said at least seven were in critical condition. Authorities are still trying to get everybody identified.
Walton said Hesston police officers and state troopers confronted the shooter inside the plant, where he was killed between 5:30- 5:45 p.m.
Matt Gerald said he was outside on break when he saw the shooter get out of his gray or silver truck with a gun.
“I saw the shooter get of his truck, shoot someone down and go into the building,” he said. “I was flabbergasted. I was at a loss for words.”
A Hutchinson man who didn’t want to be identified said he was at Excel for a job interview when he heard shots being fired.
“Somebody said we’re going to get out of here,” he said. “There’s shots being fired. We ran downstairs and ran into a basement area."
After the plant was evacuated, hundreds of employees were lined up on the west and south side of the plant. Some exchanged hugs upon finding co-workers. Travis Jones said he was looking for his nephews, and he didn’t know if they were OK.
Bruce Bachelor, who works in the recruitment department, said he didn’t know how many victims there were because so many shots were fired.
“I was right in the middle of it,” he said.
Highway patrolmen armed with assault rifles walked along the roof. Walton said it was standard procedure to check for secondary shooters when an active shooting occurred.
Hesston College and USD 460 schools were in lockdown after the first reports of an active shooter. Walton confirmed at 6:30 that all lockdowns had been taken off.
A command center has been set up in Hesston. Walton said his office, the highway patrol and about every police agency in the county was involved.
Walton said he would provide updates at 9 p.m.
“There’s going to be a lot of sad news before this is all over,” Walton said.

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Employees Heard Shots, Thought It Was Metal Falling In Factory

Posted 2/25/2016

Record Staff

Demi Mayes, whose father has worked at Excel for over 30 years, said employees may not have been aware of the shooter until it was too late.
“They make those guys wear earplugs. They can’t hear a damn thing,” she said.
Dylan Hays said even though conceal and carry is legal in Kansas, employees are not allowed to carry firearms on company grounds.
“It started in the paint area. I heard three shots. I thought it was just metal dropping. It’s a factory.  Then the doors came up and everyone was running and screaming. We got to the front and had to turn back,” he said.
William Bobbit, who lives near Excel, said he became aware of the shooting when his nephew arrived at his door covered in blood.
“The guy next to him got shot. He was covered in blood. I got him in and gave him new clothes then came out here to see if there was anyone else that needed help,” he said. 

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Hesston Woman Gives Assistance To EMS Crews; 'People Running Across Lawn'

Posted 2/25/2016

Record Staff

Hesston resident Alice Jantz lives just across the street from the Excel plant.
At 5 p.m. Jantz finished prayers over supper with her two grandchildren, ages 16- and 8-years-old.
“We were just getting ready to eat and we saw a guy running across our sidewalk. There were a lot of people running across our lawn,” she said.
Jantz said she heard “pop, pop, pop.”
“I knew it was gunfire. I told the kids to grab their dinner and go into the living room and stay away from the windows. I knew someone was shooting at Excel,” she said.
As ambulance crews worked into the night and employees milled around near her home’s front door, Jantz opened her home to those who were affected.
“I saw all these people.  I just have one bathroom, but they needed it,” she said.
Jantz said she gave her medical scissors to EMS and her sewing scissors to crews.
“I don’t care if I ever get those back. There were things they needed and I had them,” she said.
Jantz, just an hour after the shooting, was allowing strangers into her home to use the bathroom, warm up and was serving coffee.
“I’ve got a couple coffee pots going. People who are on EMS are welcome to any coffee they want,” she said.

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BREAKING NEWS: SHOOTER AT EXCEL PLANT; CONFIRMED DEATHS

Posted 2/25/2016

 

 

  • Update 6:58 p.m. Hesston High has been released from lockdown at 6:50 p.m. It is less than a quarter of a  mile from Excel. Reporter back from news conference says 20-30 shot and 4-7 killed.
  • Update 6:50 p.m. First responders and others in need can get coffee at the intersection of Academy and Ridge. 
  • Update 6:41 p.m. The Record has two reporters in the field. One is covering a 6:30 p.m. news conference. Will be updating as facts come in.

A shooter entered the Excel Industries Plant in Hesston just after 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, shooting employees and scanner traffic has confirmed at least three dead.

Police subdued the shooter within 10 minutes of being on scene. I

Several employees said the individual, who, according to employee Jason Wilson, was a former Excel employee from Wichita.  Wilson reported he knew the shooter, however, officials have not released the individual’s name. 

Several employees took off shirts to use as tourniquets for those injured.  Injured employees could be seen in the ditch and near the road along Old Highway 81 before ambulances from across Harvey County began to arrive on scene.

Chris Brooks said he did not know it was an active shooter in the building at first. 

“I was in my area fixing what needed to be done and I heard a guy yelling ‘fire.’ and I thought there was just a fire in the shop. I put my stuff down and just started walking away. I heard pops like gunshots, and people were running in all directions and I started running too.  We all ran across the road. I could hear the bullets zinging by,” he said. 

Three employees have been confirmed dead as of 5:48 p.m. 

Employees fled the building in all directions after employees reported hearing “fire” being yelled in various parts of the plant. 

“I heard gunshots and I got the hell out. I saw people running,” said Dan Hampton, an Excel welder. 

Jackson Smith, also a welder, said he saw people running toward him. 

“It all happened from the other side of where we were,” he said. 

Keith Carter said other employees reported seeing a man pull an “AK 47.” 

“It’s the same story, different place,” he said. 

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Swather Scholars Place Third At State: Highest-Ranking 3A Public School In Kansas

Posted 2/19/2016

By Jackie Nelson

The Hesston High Swather Scholars’ Bowl team brought home third place in state competition last Saturday in Russell.

The team, coached by Patrice LeFevre, consisted of Captain, Tessa Isaac, Reuben Peachey-Stoner, Sam Hunsberger, Sam Bartel, Jordan Carter, and Jacob Luzier.

The twelve best teams in the state traveled west in the hopes of bringing home the title of 3A State Champion. The first portion of the competition consisted of two pools of six teams.

“Because of our second place finish in Regionals, we were placed in a pool with only one Regional champion. The rest were second and third place teams,” said LeFevre. 

The top three teams in each pool were to move on to the championship rounds. 

After three very close matches, the Swathers able to win the first 3 rounds, defeating the teams of Leon Bluestem, Hiawatha, and Thomas More Prep-Marion.  

“Because of our first three wins, we were pretty confident that we would move on to the championship. It was an added bonus that we won the next two,” said LeFevre.

The Swather scholars easily trumped Norton in a 40-10 contest and trounced Council Grove 80-30. The Swathers came out of the first pool undefeated. 

“The team was excited and anxious for the championship matches. We knew that even if we lost all of them, we were still the 6th best school in the State,” said LeFevre.

However, the Swathers were determined to advance as far as possible.

“Looking at who made it into finals, I was pretty sure that we could win at least two of those five rounds,” said LeFevre

The Swathers’ first match was against one of their toughest opponents - The Independent School. 

To read more see this weeks print edition

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