HESSTON, Kan. — A county sheriff said Thursday it’s possible “as many” as three to four people are dead, including a suspect, and up to 20 people may be injured after a series of attacks in south-central Kansas.
Sheriff T. Walton said at a news conference Thursday evening that there are “a number of crime scenes involved,” including the Excel Industries plant in Hesston where dispatchers earlier said they were responding to a shooting. He reported two other shootings nearby and one shooting in the plant parking lot before the shooting inside the Excel building.
The suspect was an Excel employee, Walton said.
Walton said the suspect was shot and killed and the scene at Excel Industries has been secured.
“I don’t have a lot of answers,” Walton said.
He said he couldn’t give an exact number of people killed and injured.
“We want to get everybody identified. We’re working on that,” Walton said.
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 told The Associated Press the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. At that point, the shooter got a different gun and Martin took off running.
“I looked right at him and he looked right at me,” Espinoza said.
KSN-TV footage showed a large law enforcement presence at Excel Industries and at least one person being loaded into an ambulance. A college nearby was briefly locked down.
Hesston is a community of about 3,700 residents about 35 miles north of Wichita. Excel Industries was awarded the Governor’s Exporter of the Year award in 2013 from the Kansas Department of Commerce. The company manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment and was founded in Hesston in 1960.
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.
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.