Suspect in Kansas shooting had been ordered to stay away from former girlfriend

HESSTON, Kan. -- A convicted felon was ordered to stay away from a former girlfriend and obtained two firearms from another woman before killing three people and wounding 14 others during a shooting rampage that ended at a factory in central Kansas, investigators say.

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Cedric L. Ford was fatally shot during a shootout with the police chief in Hesston, a town about 30 miles north of Wichita, after opening fire Thursday at the Excel Industries lawnmower parts plant where he worked, authorities said Friday. Ford also shot and wounded two people from his car as he drove to the site.

Federal prosecutors charged Sarah Hopkins, of nearby Newton, with one count of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon on Friday. Prosecutors allege that Hopkins, a friend of Ford's, knew he was a convicted felon when she gave him a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun.

Authorities have said Ford, 38, was armed with an assault rifle and a pistol.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said earlier Friday that Hesston's police chief, Doug Schroeder, was a "tremendous hero." Walton said between 200 and 300 people were in the factory at the time, and the "shooter wasn't done by any means when Schroeder chased and shot him.

"Had that Hesston officer not done what he did, this would be a whole lot more tragic," Walton said.

Authorities identified the dead as 44-year-old Brian Sadowsky of Newton; 31-year-old Josh Higbee of Buhler; and 30-year-old Renee Benjamin, whose hometown wasn't immediately available. All three victims worked at the plant and were killed inside the building.

Walton said his office served Ford with a protection-from-abuse order at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, about 90 minutes before the first shooting happened. He said such orders are usually filed because there's some type of violence in a relationship. He did not disclose the nature of the relationship in question.

A judge issued a temporary order of protection earlier this month for a woman who said Ford was a violent, depressed alcoholic. The woman said she and Ford were arguing on Feb. 5 when he grabbed her, placed her in a choke hold from behind and took her to the ground.

"It's my belief he is in desperate need of medical and psychological help!" she wrote.

Authorities on Friday said Ford had a history of domestic violence, including an arrest in Newton in November 2008 for felony battery and disorderly conduct. He also was arrested in July 2010, for driving while intoxicated and obstruction.

Investigators said that while driving to the factory Thursday, the gunman shot a man on the street, striking him in the shoulder, and later shot someone in the leg at an intersection. He also shot one person in the factory parking lot before opening fire inside the building, according to the sheriff's office.

Hesston is a community of about 3,700 about 35 miles north of Wichita. Excel Industries was founded there in 1960. The company manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment.

The shooting came less than a week after a man opened fire at several locations in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area, leaving six people dead and two severely wounded. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive in those attacks. The suspect remains in custody.


Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda in Hesston, John Hanna in Wichita, and Heather Hollingsworth, Margaret Stafford and Jim Suhr in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.


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