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Victims in Hesston, KS shooting identified

Posted: 6:04 PM, Feb 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-27 18:38:34-05
Reports: 2 people killed in shooting at KS biz
Reports: 2 people killed in shooting at KS biz
Reports: 2 people killed in shooting at KS biz

Authorities have identified the victims in a shooting at a central Kansas factory.

PHOTOS:  4 killed, including gunman, in Hesston and Newton shooting 

Renee Benjamin, Brian Sadowsky and Josh Higbee were killed when 38-year-old Cedric Ford opened fire on Thursday at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas.

 

The victims in the Hesston shooting were identified as Josh Higbee, Brian Sadowsky and Renee Benjamin (from left to right.)

 

Several other people were wounded in the shooting.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said in a press conference Friday , Ford shot and wounded three people before storming the lawnmower parts factory.

A police officer killed Ford during an exchange of gunfire inside of the factory. A sheriff says the police officer who shot and killed Ford is a "tremendous hero.Walton said Friday that had the Hesston police officer not killed the man during attack, it "would be a whole lot more tragic."

He says there were still 200 or 300 other people in the factory and that "the shooter wasn't done by any means."

Officials say Ford was armed with an assault rifle and automatic pistol. During a press conference, Walton said deputies are continuing the investigation.

Cedric Ford (Source: Harvey County Sheriff's Office)

 

"I ran until I saw open fields"

Thursday marked Michael Dellinger's third week of work at Excel Industries. It also was a day he almost lost his life. 

"It still hasn't even set in," said 20-year-old Michael Dellinger. 

Dellinger thought the backfire he heard was from a part inside the factory. He didn't realize someone was shooting. 

"I froze for a second then I thought, holy crap, we gotta go, there’s a gun, he’s shooting people.”

That's when he and a friend took off for the doors. 

"We ran through weld shop and I was still hearing the gunshots, still hearing them,” Dellinger said. 

As he was running, he said he kept seeing bullets pierce the walls in front of him. 

"I grabbed one person on the way out and I know three people behind me got hit, and they were no further behind me than this," he said.

One thought is what gave him the will to survive: his wife, Amber, and young son, Jace. 

"Whenever I heard the bullets hit the deck, I was just thinking, 'Man, I got to keep going, I gotta make it out to see him grow up and get married and have kids,'" he said. "He was just the only thought. I'm glad I made it out.”

Dellinger knew the shooter. He said he shared a cigarette with Ford the week before.  He said he still can't believe Ford would do this. 

"I kept thinking, there’s no way this happened to me. There's no way this happened at my work, in Hesston," Dellinger said.

Excel Industries will be closed at least through Monday. The company will continue to provide pay and benefits during this time. 

Watch 41 Action News Reporter Lexi Sutter's interview with Dellinger below:

Kansas woman charged with transferring firearm to Cedric Ford, a convicted felon

Criminal charges filed Friday allege a Kansas woman unlawfully transferred guns to Ford, a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. 

Sarah T. Hopkins, 28, of Newton, Kansas, is charged with one county of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon.

Sarah T. Hopkins

A criminal complaint filed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says she bought the Zastava Serbia, AK-47 type semi-automatic rifle and a Glock Model 22 40-caliber handgun from A Pawn Shop in Newton on March 20, 2014. An employee told authorities that Hopkins since then has pawned the weapons and redeemed them on Feb. 5, 2015 just 20 days before the shooting. 

Hopkins and Ford were engaged to be married on May 23, 2015, according to a wedding registry we found on JC Penney's website. Hopkins moved out of their shared home in July and requested help from police to retrieve the guns. Later that month, she said Ford threatened her and she gave the handgun and rifle back to him. 

An affidavit alleges Hopkins knew Ford was not prohibited to possessing a firearm when she gave him the guns in August 2015. The ATF says Ford had the guns when he was shot and killed by police. 

According to her Linkedin profile, Hopkins teaches at Sunshine Academy Community Childcare in Newton. Before that, she worked on the assembly line at Excel Industries. Before moving to Newton, she also lived in Excelsior Springs and Liberty. 

If convicted, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Watch 41 Action News Reporter Dia Wall's special report on Hopkins below:

NEXT: Ex-girlfiend reports domestic violence incident

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Ford was involved in a domestic violence incident with another ex-girlfriend three weeks before the shootings, according to court documents 41 Action News obtained in Wichita.

According to the documents, Ford's live-in girlfriend filed a complaint against him Feb. 5. According to her complaint, a verbal fight became physical "by him pushing me and then grabbing me… He placed me in a choke hold from behind, I couldn't breathe. He then got me to ground while choking me, finally releasing me."

Referring to Ford, the ex-girlfriend goes on to say, "He is an alcoholic, violent, depressed. It's my belief he is in desperate need of medical and psychological help!" according to court documents.

Wichita police answered the woman's call for help. But despite the police report noting the woman was battered, noting physical injuries, there's no record of Ford being arrested or spending any time in the county jail.

On that same day, a local judge issued a temporary order against Ford. Under those terms, he needed to vacate the house and stay away from her.

The order also said that Ford had a conceal carry license for a gun and it would be subject to revocation under Kansas law.

On Thursday - about 90 minutes before the attacks began, according to officials -  Ford was notified at work that order had become permanent.

Watch 41 Action News Investigator Andy Alcock's special report on the incident below:

Cedric Ford's criminal history 

Public records show that Ford has several previous offenses in Florida over the last decade, including burglary, grand theft and fleeing from an officer. Online records show he was released from the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections in February 2007.

In Kansas, he had a misdemeanor conviction in a 2008 fighting or brawling case and various traffic violations from 2014 and 2015.

Watch 41 Action News Reporter Brian Abel's special report on Ford's past below:

 

Impact on the community 

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback ordered flags to be lowered from sunrise to sundown Friday to honor the victims and families of the Hesston shooting. 

 

 

President Barack Obama commented on the shooting from Jacksonville, Florida were he made a trip to a manufacturing plant. He also referenced the shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

"These acts may not dominate the news today but these are two more communities in America torn apart by grief. I thought it was important for me to say something today because otherwise these sorts of shootings become routine."

CLICK HERE to donate to those affected by the shooting in Hesston, Kansas. For the latest information about #HesstonStrong, visit the Facebook page.

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