NEWTON, Kan. — Three people were killed at a manufacturing plant in Hesston, Kan., on Thursday by a man who had driven through at least two towns shooting a gun out of his car window, the police said.
The gunman was killed in a gunfight with a police officer inside the factory, the authorities said.
T. Walton, the sheriff of Harvey County, told reporters that the shootings occurred around 5 p.m. at the factory and on the roads between Hesston and Newton, Kan., where the gunman lived. The factory is owned by Excel Industries, a company that makes riding mowers and other lawn care equipment.
Sheriff Walton said that four people, including the gunman, had been killed at the factory and that 14 others were injured, 10 of them critically. The gunman, who worked at the plant, shot three more people as he drove to the factory, including a man whose car he stole on the way there. He shot a woman in the parking lot at the factory before entering the building and opening fire.
All of the victims were shot with an assault rifle, the sheriff said, but a handgun was also found on the gunman after he was killed.
Interactive Feature | Hesston, Kansas
“The shooter was actively firing on any target that came across his sights,” Sheriff Walton said, adding that he appeared to pick his targets at “random.”
Paul Mullet, the chief executive of Excel Industries, said that the gunman was an employee of the company. He said the plant would be shut down during the investigation.
The name of the gunman was not released, and no motive was given.
Sheriff Walton said there were at least two other crime scenes in Newton, where the police were positioned outside the gunman’s mobile home late Thursday.
He said that the officers wanted to search the home, but that the gunman’s roommate was inside and refused to let them enter.
But late Thursday, Lt. Bryan Hall, a spokesman for the Newton Police Department, said that there had been no standoff and that no one was inside the home. He said that SWAT officers were brought in to secure the house as a precaution, and the police were waiting to obtain a search warrant.
Sheriff Walton said the F.B.I., the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were aiding the investigation.
“It is a large, large crime scene, and there are many different crime scenes involved,” he said.
The shooting erupted during the factory’s second shift, the sheriff said, when more than 150 people would have been at work. Fifteen ambulances and two helicopters transported the injured to Newton Medical Center, and two hospitals in Wichita, Via Christi Saint Francis Hospital and Wesley Medical Center, he said.
Speaking by telephone from his hospital bed, Jesus Fierros, 25, said he was inside the plant when the shooting began. He ran, then felt a burst of pain in his right leg.
“I just heard the gunshots and I just took off running,” he said. “I heard people saying someone was shooting, and then I got shot in the leg and everyone started helping me.”
He said he never saw the gunman. “At that moment I wasn’t thinking,” he added. “I was just running, getting as far away as possible.”
Another employee, Marty Pierce, told KAKE-TV, a local ABC affiliate, that the gunman “started spraying everyone” with bullets in the assembly area near the paint department.
“I thought it was a fire or an explosion — I didn’t know someone was shooting, but then our robot operator decided to go look down the hallway and he got shot,” Mr. Pierce said.
He said he fled to the parking lot while shots continued to ring out in the plant. Nicole Goodwin, the wife of a factory supervisor, spoke to reporters while she waited outside the plant for her husband, who she said called her after the shooting to say he was unharmed.
“I got a phone call saying they got put on lockdown because some random guy came in with an AK-47 and started shooting,” she told the ABC affiliate.
“I’m just worried about everybody that I know here,” she said.
Chris Mueller, another relative interviewed outside the factory, said that he was told that the gunman arrived during break time and opened fire.
“He shot a lady in the parking lot, then shot at people in the lobby,” Mr. Mueller said.
Sheriff Walton said that the woman shot in the parking lot was in critical condition.
In the Hesston area, north of Wichita, some said the shooter had hit the region at its heart: The Excel plant is not just the gunman’s former workplace, but a community hub, employing hundreds of people in a central Kansas town with a population of fewer than 4,000.
At Excel, brothers work side by side, spouses pass one another on breaks, and fathers and sons clock in and out together. “Lots of families work there,” said Josh Chase, a former plant employee whose brother, cousin and other relatives work at the factory.
“They are pretty shook up,” he said. “My cousin that works there, his wife’s cousin works there as well, and was shot in the head. And my brother won’t talk to anyone.”
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