Victims of Excel Industries shooting identified: Two men and woman ages 44, 31, 30

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HESSTON, Kan. --The "protection from abuse" order that Cedric Ford received roughly 90 minutes before he went on Thursday's deadly shooting spree in Kansas was served to him at his workplace -- Excel Industries in Hesston, where most of the casualties would be -- Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton told reporters Friday.

Walton identified Cedric Ford as the man who killed three people and injured 14 others in the rampage that ended at Excel Industries, the lawn care equipment manufacturer where Ford worked.

The three victims killed were identified Friday afternoon as:

  • Renee Benjamin, a 30-year-old woman
  • Joshua Higbee, a 31-year-old man
  • Brian Sadowsky, a 44-year-old man

A deputy went to Excel and served Ford with the protection order at about 4:30 p.m., Thursday, about 90 minutes before the shootings began, Walton said.

"They said he was upset (upon receiving the order), but nothing greater than anybody else who gets served a PFA," Walton said, citing witnesses.

The sheriff added that the person who filed the order did not work at Excel.

Walton detailed a timeline of the shootings. The first person Ford shot was a man driving with his two children, Walton said.

Shooting Timeline (Illustrated by Sheriff T. Harvey during Thursday night’s news conference)

Shooting Timeline (Illustrated by Sheriff T. Harvey during Thursday night’s news conference)

Walton said the gunman later shot and wounded a second person, stealing that person's car, before heading to back to Excel Industries. A 911 call came in at about 5 p.m. CT.

Ford was armed with an assault rifle and an automatic pistol, Walton said.

Excel Industries' CEO, Paul Mullet. said Friday that his first priority is his employees' "safety and wellness." Mullet added that his company is fully cooperating with law enforcement agencies and the Red Cross.

Friend: Shooter 'hopped out with the gun on'

Cedric Ford is the suspect in a shooting that killed three people at a lawn care company in Kansas.

Cedric Ford is the suspect in a shooting that killed three people at a lawn care company in Kansas.

Dispatchers got the first call at 4:57 p.m. (5:57 p.m. ET) with reports of a male in a gray Dodge opening fire, according to Walton.

A man was shot in the shoulder, the sheriff's office said in a news release. Another person was reportedly shot in the leg about two miles north.

Minutes later, authorities received multiple reports of shots fired at Excel Industries, where an estimated 150 people were working at the time, according to Walton.

One of those workers was Matt Jarrell, who identified the shooter as his colleague and friend Cedric Ford to CNN affiliate KSNW. Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton confirmed the shooter's identity as Cedric Ford on Friday at a news conference.

Moments before the two clocked in at work at the same time Thursday, they were talking about Ford's new truck, Jarrell said.

About two hours into his shift, it was time for Jarrell's break. Ford was supposed to relieve him, he said, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Jarrell went outside, and the new truck was gone. A few minutes later, Ford returned in a different car, he said.

"He just parked and then opened up the door, hopped out with the gun on, strapped-up and everything," Jarrell said.

Ford yelled "hey" at a bystander nearby and then shot that person, Jarrell said.

"I witnessed him shoot the shots. I saw the shell casings come out of the assault rifle," he said. "I mean, that vivid. I can still see it."

The whole episode shocked Jarrell, who "never in a million years" would have expected his friend to do something like this.

"He was a mellow guy," Jarrell said. "He was somebody I could talk to about anything."

'Pop, pop' and screaming, witness recalls

Another Excel employee, identified as Dylan by KSNW, rubbed blood from his hands -- which came from helping a man who'd been shot -- as he recalled the chaotic, horrific scene.

"We heard a pop, pop, and we thought it was just metal falling on the ground, and then the doors opened, people started screaming, coming out," he said. "We really didn't know what was going on."

Matt Gerald told The Hesston Record newspaper that he was outside on break when he saw the shooter.

"I saw the shooter get out of his truck, shoot someone down and go into the building," Gerald said. "I was flabbergasted. I was at a loss for words."

The gunman had a long gun and a pistol, according to Walton. He said the victims appear to have been randomly targeted.

Authorities were on the scene at 5:06 p.m. local time -- minutes after the first reports came in, according to a timeline shown to reporters.

The first law enforcement officer to arrive on the scene was alone, and single-handedly took down the shooter.

"Even though he took fire, he went inside of that place and saved multiple, multiple lives," Walton said. "[He's] a hero, as far as I'm concerned."

No law enforcement official was injured.

Who was Cedric Ford?

Cedric Ford "never came off as a bad guy," according to a co-worker. But his run-ins with the law dated back more than a decade.

On his first visit to a zoo, he was awestruck by the beauty of wildlife, said the co-worker, who described Ford as laid-back and a good listener.

Ford was known to local law enforcement, according to Walton.

"All I can say is he's been in my jail a couple of times before," Walton said.

FOX 4's John Pepitone reported that his record in Kansas shows he was convicted in Kansas in a fighting case and he had several traffic violations in Kansas between 2014 and 2015.

Few details of Ford's life were immediately available, but he appeared to be active on Facebook, where he described himself as a painter at Excel Industries.

On his page he shared his fondness for rap, guns, cars and children.

The page says Ford lived in Newton and was from Miami.

According to the Broward County, Florida Sheriff's Office, Ford was arrested in 2000 by Pembroke Pines police for car break-ins and then again in 2004 by Broward County deputies for parole violations.

Jarrell recalled one particular conversation he and Ford had about a visit to the zoo. He described Ford as a "mellow guy" and "someone I could talk to about anything."

It was the first time in Ford's life he had gone to the zoo, Jarrell said, and he was in awe.

"There are little things we take for granted that we see all the time or we've grown up seeing," Jarrell said. "And this guy, you know, he was just touched going to the zoo."

"He never came off to be a bad guy."

Videos can be seen on Ford's Facebook page that appear to be from a recent zoo visit.

"It was amazing I [sic] never seen wildlife in my life besides pitbull and Rottweiler puppies lol" he wrote in a January 30 post.

'This will take some time'

A witness told CNN affiliate KWCH that outside the shooting, many cried, hugged and tried to find answers.

"I've never experienced that before," he said as he choked up. "You think you're safe at work and you're not. It's just scary."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback released a statement about Thursday's attack:

This is a tragedy that affects every member of the community and I ask that Kansans remember them in their thoughts.
State law enforcement agencies are supporting the local authorities and I will provide any support to help them and the entire community in the days and weeks to come.

Gov. Brownback also ordered flags to be lowered and flown at half-staff Friday from sunrise to sundown in honor of the victims.

"This is just a horrible incident that's happened here," the sheriff said. "It's going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over."

Excel Industries will remain closed during the investigation.

 

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.

A gunman killed 3, and wounded 14 at lawn care company in Hesston, Kan., Thursday.