HESSTON, KS (KSN) –Law enforcement officers responded to the scene of a workplace shooting at Excel Industries in Hesston Thursday afternoon with reports of multiple fatalities and people wounded. The incident began about 4:40 p.m.
Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton confirmed at a 9 p.m. news conference that four people were dead, including the shooter, and 14 others were wounded. The shooter was an Excel employee. Law enforcement says this is not an act of terrorism.
Sheriff T. Walton said the shooting started in Newton at 12th and Meridian. Two people were shot while driving their vehicles. One person was hurt. The other person wasn’t. Walton says the shooter continued north on Highway 81 where he shot another person in the leg.
“There was a report of a stolen vehicle. That vehicle was the person that got shot. The shooter took that video and went on into Excel Industries. Once he got to Excel Industries, he shot a person in the parking lot and he entered into the building itself,” said Sheriff T. Walton. “Inside the building he shot a total of 15 people. Four were killed including himself, the shooter.”
Walton said law enforcement confronted the shooter and gunfire was exchanged between officers and the shooter. Officers killed the shooter. The incident lasted approximately 26 minutes from start to finish.
Via Christi reports there are a total of six victims, some of them arriving by helicopters from Hesston. Earlier, Via Christi officials reported two victims were in serious condition, one was in fair condition, one was still being assessed, and and two others were en route from Hesston.
A manager at the plant told KSN when gunfire broke out, the first action was to get the doors open and get employees out of the building.
Marguerite Weaver works at grocery store near the plant. She reports that her father-in-law works at the plant and she hasn’t heard from him yet. She was advised to lock down the store.
Marguerite told KSN that Excel was a wonderful company in the community. “I am completely blown away. I thought it was a lie,” said Weaver.
A worker named Dillon was at the plant unloading palettes when he heard the gunshots. He thought at first it was just noise, then someone told them there was someone shooting in the front of the plant.
“We were out back unloading the palettes and we heard a pop, pop”, said Dillon.
A plant employee named Donna said her husband reported seeing the shooter. She said she had not received any training to deal with a shooter situation like the one at her plant. She told KSN when she left the building she immediately ran to her truck. “I didn’t even buckle my seat belt I was so scared,” Donna said.
KSN talked to a woman who drove to Hesston from Valley Center, concerned about her daughter that was working second shift at the plant. Her daughter had called and told her there was a shooting and she was taking cover.
Donna said she saw the gunman and that he had a dark complexion and was wearing a muscle shirt.
Employees were asked to stay in the area of the plant so officials could get a head count.
KSN Chief Photojournalist Scott Dietz reports as he was driving to Hesston there were three ambulances headed toward Wichita. Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Services is sending three ambulances to Hesston to assist authorities there.
Excel manufactures lawn care products including riding lawnmowers. The business has been in Hesston since the early 1960s.