Kansas shooting: Gunman who killed three at factory before being shot dead by police 'was mellow guy', friend says

An Excel Industries employee is believed to have opened fire from his car before being killed by authorities

A man believed to be the gunman who killed three people and wounded 14 others - 10 of them critically - in a series of shootings in Kansas has been described by those who knew him as a "mellow guy". 

Matt Jarrell, a painter at the Excel Industries factory where the attacks were carried out, told CNN that his co-worker and friend Cedric Ford, 38, was suspected of being the shooter, although he has not been formally identified.

He told CNN affiliate KSNW that "never in a million years" would he expect his friend to do something like this and described him as "a mellow guy". 

"He was somebody I could talk to about anything," he added. 

Mr Jarrell described how the two men had clocked in at work at the same time on Thursday. Two hours later, Ford disappeared and allegedly returned in a different car. 

He then "hopped out with the gun on, strapped-up and everything", Mr Jarrell told the news outlet.

Ford is then alleged to have yelled "hey" at a bystander before shooting them. 

"I witnessed him shoot the shots," Mr Jarrell said. "I saw the shell casings come out of the assault rifle. I mean, that vivid. I can still see it."

Authorities confirmed the shooter was an employee at Excel, but did not formally identify him or release details of a motive. 

Harvey County sheriff T Walton said that the shootings took place in a car park outside the plant and in two other locations in Hesston.

He also said "there was some things that triggered this particular individual" - but declined to comment further. He said terrorism was not a factor.

He added that the gunman, who was eventually killed by a police officer, travelled between the sites, opening fire from his car. All the dead were shot inside the factory.

Authorities surrounded the gunman's home in the city of Newton, believing his room-mate may be inside, but later stood down when no-one else was found there.

US Mass shootings in 2015

The sheriff's office is investigating the attacks along with the FBI and Kansas Bureau of Investigation. A nearby college was briefly locked down during the incident.

Excel Industries, established in 1960, makes Hustler and Big Dog lawn mower parts in Hesston, a community of about 3,700 and about 35 miles north of Wichita.

An employee said he was in the plant during the shooting when he heard people yelling to get out of the building.

Martin Espinoza said he heard a popping sound then saw the gunman, who he said was a co-worker he described as typically pretty calm.

Mr Espinoza said the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. The attacker then got a different gun and Mr Espinoza ran away.

"I looked right at him and he looked right at me," he said.

"I took off running. He came outside after a few people, shot outside a few times, shot at the officers coming on to the scene at the moment and then reloaded in front of the company.

"After he reloaded he went inside the lobby in front of the building and that is the last I seen him."

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.

Sheriff Walton said about 150 people were in the factory at the time of the shooting and the officer who killed the gunman "saved multiple, multiple lives".

He said the gunman had an assault weapon and a pistol.

The officer who killed the man was "a hero as far as I'm concerned", Sheriff Walton said.

"This is a fairly peaceful community and to have something like this is tragic."

The sheriff would not discuss a motive, but said "there was some things that triggered this individual".

"This is just a horrible incident. There's going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over," he added.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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