HESSTON, Kan. — A sheriff in south-central Kansas said Thursday that four people, including a gunman, are dead after a series of shootings at a business, its parking lot and two streets nearby.
Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said at a news conference that all the dead were shot inside Excel Industries, a plant in Hesston that makes lawn mower products. He said 14 were injured in the shootings, 10 critically.
A law enforcement officer killed the gunman, who worked at the plant, after he began shooting at them, Walton said.
The man traveled between sites firing from a vehicle before reaching the plant, the sheriff said.
Walton said about 150 people were likely in the plant at the time of the shooting, and that the law enforcement officer who killed the suspect “saved multiple, multiple lives.” He said the gunman had an assault weapon and a pistol.
The officer who killed the man is “a hero as far as I’m concerned,” Walton said.
“This is a fairly peaceful community and to have something like this is tragic,” he said.
The sheriff would not discuss a motive but said “there was some things that triggered this individual.”
Erin McDaniel, spokeswoman for the nearby city of Newton, said the suspect was known to local authorities. She wouldn’t elaborate.
The shooting comes less than a week after authorities say a man opened fire at several locations in Kalamazoo, Michigan, leaving six people dead and two severely wounded.
Martin Espinoza, who works at Excel, was in the plant during the shooting. He heard people yelling to others to get out of the building, then heard popping, then saw the shooter, a co-worker he described as typically pretty calm.
Espinoza said the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. At that point, the gunman got a different gun and Espinoza ran.
“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 Associated Press. “After he reloaded he went inside the lobby in front of the building and that is the last I seen him.”
A nearby college was briefly locked down.
Hesston is a community of about 3,700 residents about 35 miles north of Wichita.
Excel Industries was founded in Hesston in 1960. The company manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment and was awarded the Governor’s Exporter of the Year award in 2013 from the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Walton said the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation had been called in to assist. A spokeswoman for the Kansas City office of the FBI did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.
“This is just a horrible incident. ... There’s going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over,” Walton said.