A gunman in Kansas opened fire at multiple locations, including his workplace, killing three people and injuring 14 others Thursday before he was shot and killed by authorities, police said.
“Everybody says it can’t happen here, but . . . it happened here,” Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said at a news conference on Thursday night. “This is a fairly peaceful community. And to have something like this is tragic.”
While Walton said he could not confirm a motive or identify the gunman, he did say authorities did not believe the shooting was related to terrorism.
“We have an idea . . . there were some things that triggered this particular individual,” Walton said.
Most of the bloodshed took place at Excel Industries, a company that says on its website that it manufactures lawn-mowing equipment. Walton said the gunman worked at the Excel plant in Hesston, a city about 35 miles north of Wichita, but he could not say if the man had recently been fired or how long he had worked there.
Walton said the shooter shot 15 people at Excel, killing three, before he was fatally shot by a law enforcement official. Two other people were shot and injured in other incidents believed to be related before the gunman drove to Excel and opened fire.
“This is a horrible situation,” Walton said. “Just terrible, terrible.”
A law enforcement officer responding to the shooting — the first to arrive on the scene — shot and killed the gunman, saving other lives, Walton said. The gunman was armed with a long gun and a pistol, he added.
Walton said local officials received a call from the White House on Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, Walton had said police initially believed the gunman killed “as many as three or four” people and injured “possibly up to 20 people.” He later told a local news station that Walton may have killed as many as six people and injured up to 30 people.
On Thursday evening, Walton said the confusion stemmed from duplicated reports of injuries as authorities responded to multiple shootings.
Before the report of an active shooter at Excel, though, police received multiple reports of shooting victims elsewhere. The first call came in at 5 p.m. about a man in nearby Newton who was shot in the shoulder while in his truck, police said. That was followed by a report of a person in a different place shot in the leg.
After that, police were called about a shooting in Excel’s parking lot and then alerted to an active shooter at the facility.
“There’s so many crime scenes and there’s so many people,” he said at an earlier news conference. He added: “This is just a horrible incident that happened here.”
Austin McCaskill, who works on motor hydraulics at Excel, said he had come back from his first break when he heard the gunshots.
“I was just working and I heard this pop, pop, pop,” McCaskill, 40, said in a telephone interview. “You don’t hear that sound very often. I kept working and all of a sudden one of the bullets came flying over our heads and hit one of the frames, so we all just took off running.”
McCaskill said he did not know the gunman personally, but he had seen him around. Other people who worked at the plant said the gunman “was having problems, ……..” McCaskill said. “He was having a bunch of problems but you don’t need to go blasting up a plant because you’ve got problems.”
The gunman was “running through the plant just going crazy with a gun. . ..just randomly shooting people,” McCaskill said. After running outside with others, McCaskill said they saw “probably two or three people laying in the road.”
“One guy got shot in the back,” he said. “There was one guy who was shot in the leg. There were random people everywhere who had gunshot wounds.”
A helicopter came to transport at least some of the injured to a hospital, McCaskill said.
Six people injured in the shooting were in stable condition and being treated at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, a hospital spokeswoman said. Another seven patients — five in serious condition, two in fair condition — were taken to Via Christi Hospital — St Francis in Wichita, a spokeswoman said. Four people were taken to Newton Medical Center, a spokeswoman there said, three in good condition and one in fair condition.
In the aftermath of the shooting, live feeds from local media networks showed people gathered in the area amid flashing lights from police cars.
In addition to the sheriff’s office and other local authorities, state officials and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the scene.
The plant is located near Hesston College as well as a middle school and a high school. The college was locked down Thursday in response to the shooting before the lockdown was later lifted.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victims and their families, as well as everyone at Excel and the entire Hesston community.
This latest mass shooting comes less than a week after a gunman in Michigan shot and killed six people on Saturday, another rampage that involved victims in multiple places.
Updated Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Updated Friday, February 26, 2016 at 12:18 am