Two major questions surrounding Thursday’s shooting rampage at Excel Industries in Hesston appeared to have been answered Friday:
What triggered Excel employee Cedric Ford to return to the plant after his break and shoot 17 people, three fatally?
And where did Ford get the weapons used in the attack?
Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said Friday that the sheriff’s office served Ford, 38, with a protection from abuse order from his ex-girlfriend in Wichita at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Excel plant.
Walton said he thinks that was likely what triggered the attack, which began about 90 minutes later.
The mother of Ford’s two children, Sarah J. Hopkins of Newton, is facing a federal charge after authorities said she is suspected of giving Ford the two weapons used in the attack.
Hopkins, 28, is the mother of Ford’s 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, according to court records obtained by The Eagle on Friday afternoon. She was charged with one count of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in an e-mailed news release Friday.
Authorities on Friday also confirmed the names of the three people killed in the attack: Renee Benjamin, 30; Josh Higbee, 31; and Brian Sadowsky, 44.
Nearly all of the wounded are recovering; one person remains in critical condition at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.
Hundreds of people gathered Friday night in Hesston’s Heritage Park for a candlelight vigil, the first step in what is likely to be a long healing process.
A hero emerges
Walton described Ford as being upset about being served with the court papers at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but not out of the ordinary.
“He didn’t display anything that was outrageous,” Walton said.
Authorities think Ford left the plant and went home to retrieve the weapons. A neighbor said he saw him walk angrily from his mobile home in south Newton and throw what looked like a machine gun into his car and speed off.