WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police chief who rushed without backup into a Kansas lawnmower factory amid a shooting rampage fatally shot the gunman about five minutes after he arrived, while emergency dispatchers fielded a deluge of 911 calls from workers fleeing the plant or barricaded inside, according to a timeline and 911 recordings released Thursday.
About 300 people were working at Excel Industries in Hesston on Feb. 25 when Cedric L. Ford barged in armed with an assault-type rifle and a pistol and opened fire. Ford shot two people en route to the factory and an additional 15 at the plant, three of whom died.
Authorities released the timeline and 911 recordings in response to open records requests from various media outlets, including The Associated Press. The calls were redacted to remove any identifying information. The plant had been closed since the shootings and the release came the same day that it resumed operations.
The detailed timeline prepared by authorities indicates Ford was served with a protection from abuse order at 3:33 p.m. at the Excel plant, where he worked. He apparently left the plant at some point. His first victim was shot at 4:57 p.m. in Newton while he was returning to the plant. A second person was wounded along the way at 4:59 p.m.
Emergency dispatchers began receiving frantic calls of a shooter at the plant at 5:03 p.m., fielding about 30 calls within 12 minutes.
"Help me, please," pleaded a woman whose boyfriend was shot in the leg.
A man screamed to a dispatcher, "Multiple people shot all over the freaking place!"
Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder, one of a force of just six full-time officers in the town 30 miles north of Wichita, arrived at the factory 20 seconds after the first call went out. He and other deputies were soon taking fire from the building.
The shooter was spotted in the lobby at 5:07 p.m. At the same time, emergency medical workers were called to respond for multiple victims, but paged and told to stay back until law enforcement determined it was safe.
The gunman was dead by 5:09 p.m.
In one recording, a caller tells the dispatcher that Schroeder said the suspect is down. Asked whether there is more than one shooter, the caller responds that Schroeder does not know, adding: "He needs backup."
As calls came in, dispatchers quickly determined whether anyone was hurt and whether the caller was in a safe place before moving on to the next call. Dispatchers told callers who were helping injured co-workers to apply pressure to wounds to stop the bleeding until help could arrive.
One caller said he was locked in an office with four people who were shot, including two who were "real bad." One of them had been shot in the head.
"Is he breathing?"
"Just barely," came the reply.
A dispatcher instructed him on how to keep that worker's airway open.
Dispatchers told some workers to lock doors if possible, or barricade entrances with desks.
"Stay low; stay out of sight," one dispatcher advised.