Excel employee Marty Pierce describes hearing the shots and running out of the building when a gunman started shooting people inside the building in Hesston, Kansas, on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle
Excel employee Marty Pierce describes hearing the shots and running out of the building when a gunman started shooting people inside the building in Hesston, Kansas, on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

National

Four dead, including gunman, in Kansas workplace shooting

By Tim Potter, Kelsey Ryan and Amy Renee Leiker

tpotter@wichitaeagle.com

February 25, 2016 6:56 PM

HESSTON, Kan.

An employee armed with a long gun and a handgun went on a shooting spree that left three people dead and injured 12 at a manufacturing plant in Hesston, about 35 miles north of Wichita. Two other people were shot earlier, one in Newton and one on U.S. 81.

The suspected gunman later was shot and killed by law enforcement officers.

“This is just a horrible incident here,” Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said. “It’s going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over.”

The shooting at Excel Industries, which employs about 1,000 people, was reported shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday. The suspect, a Harvey County resident, was killed between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m., Walton said. Shots at other locations were reported earlier.

VIDEO: Harvey County Sheriff updates shooting situation in Hesston

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton updates the media about the shooting that took place at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas, during a 9 p.m. briefing Thursday night. ( Video by Fernando Salazar)

fsalazar@wichitaeagle.com

Gunfire at the plant started just a few hours into the second shift, just after employees had taken their first break. It began near the paint line, employees said.

An employee who said he was in the plant said he heard gunshots and people shouting to get out of the building.

“Everybody was running,” said the employee, who did not want to give his name.

He said the man, whom he recognized as a co-worker, seemed to be on a rampage.

“He was coming at everybody,” the employee said.

He said he noticed two weapons: an AK-47 and some type of handgun.

Marty Pierce said he was working in the welding shop when he heard the paint guys yelling, “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

He said he thought the building was on fire and was ready to leave when he heard a pop, pop, pop and saw people scattering and running outside. He left the building through a side door. He said he ran into a female co-worker who said the shooter followed her outside. She hid behind a tree.

Jacob Hershberger, 20, said he was working on the mower line about 30 yards from the paint line when he heard three gunshots. At first he thought the guys on the paint line were building something. Then he heard six more shots, and heard someone yell, ‘Those are gun shots. You need to get out of here.' ”

Video: Employee describes saving co-worker during Kansas mass shooting

Excel employee Jacob Hershberger describes being in the building in Hesston, Kansas, where a gunman started shooting. Hershberger saved a co-worker while fleeing for his life.

Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

He said he ran by one person who had been shot in the leg. He and other workers saw a second worker who had been shot in the back. They loaded him onto a pallet and put him in the back of a motorized cart, and drove him out of the plant, urging him to keep his eyes open and stay awake. A law enforcement officer directed them to hide behind a grassy hill until the shooting stopped.

The first reports of shots fired came at 5 p.m. near 12th and Meridian in Newton, about 8 miles south of Hesston. A man was shot in the shoulder. A second person was shot in the leg nearby. Third reports of the shooting came from the Excel parking lot.

The reports came “one after another,” according to Walton.

Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita received seven victims from the shooting, according to a spokeswoman. She said that five victims were in serious condition and two were in fair condition.

An official with Wichita’s Wesley Medical Center said it was treating three patients Thursday evening. Their conditions were unknown.

Newton Medical Center in Newton received four patients. Three were in satisfactory condition and one was transferred to Wesley Medical Center because of broken bones, according to CEO Steve Kelly.

Late Thursday, the parking lot of the plant was encircled in crime-scene tape. Law enforcement officers had blocked off roads leading to the plant.

Inside the parking lot a police car had its headlights pointed at a silver pick-up truck, which was parked near a door on the northeast side of the building where the shooter reportedly entered. The driver’s door of the pickup stood wide open.

Excel Industries, 200 S. Ridge Road in Hesston, touts itself on its website as a “leading manufacturer of turf care products” including Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mower Co. lines.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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