A Wichita woman had one of the last, most intimate views of what life was like for Cedric Ford, the mass shooter that upended the lives of so many.
She describes a man who told her he was depressed, who drank alcohol and snorted meth to the point that he sometimes had to stay in bed for days.
But he was also kind to her and considerate, someone who offered to buy her food and drinks and who she would laugh with. She said she messaged him on Facebook the day of the shooting, and they had plans to see each other that night.
The woman wants to remain anonymous because one of her children was bullied by other children who found out that her mom knew the shooter, she said.
But the woman showed the Eagle text messages she exchanged with Ford that verified details of her account. And the former Harvey County sheriff, T. Walton, confirmed that she had reached out to him the day after the shooting as she said. Two family members also confirmed that they had met Ford.
DATING AND DRUGS
A couple of months before Cedric Ford shot 17 people, killing three, last year, he met the woman on Plenty of Fish, an online dating website. Many guys would say crude things to her, but she said he was sweet, if a bit flirty.
He was short and bald, not her type, but she liked that he had a job, a house, a car and seemed to take care of his kids. So he would come over to her house and they would listen to R&B music and lie in bed and watch movies together.
But after a couple of visits, he brought over alcohol and meth and asked her if she wanted any. She liked to drink with him but didn’t do drugs. He snorted the meth, which she thought was strange, because she had seen two people use meth before, and both of them smoked it.
The reason he used meth but not marijuana, he told her, was that the meth would wash out of his system quickly, if Excel Industries, where he worked, drug tested him.
One time he used so much of the drug he had to call in sick for two days, she said. He asked if he could stay with her until he felt better.
He would sweat a lot, roll around in bed and then sit with his head in a trash can, but never throw up. She would sit by his side and hold him. “He would just be like, ‘Hold me, hold me.’ because he was really sick, and I took care of him,” she said.
When she finally fell asleep, he would stay awake all night watching TV and pornography, she said.
But sometimes, when he wasn’t so strung out, they would talk. He told her he was depressed, that he didn’t have many friends in Kansas and wanted to move back to Florida, where his family lives, but that he had gotten in trouble with the law there. His tattoos were from prison, he said.
He would sometimes call her from work and make lewd comments but would tell her it was fine because he was in the paint room and no one could hear him.
Ford would offer to bring her juice, which he knew she liked, when he came over and to take her out to dinner. But they never left the house, and she never saw him eat anything. When he was recovering from a meth high, she said, she offered him Sprite and crackers, and he told her no.
She had gained more than 100 pounds in the past few years, she said, but he still called her beautiful and sexy.
“He bragged about his kids. He told me how he took them to the zoo on the weekend and how their faces lit up,” she said. “He was always doing something, taking them out to eat, taking them to a park. He would send me a picture with him and his kids and he would be driving with his kids in the backseat.”
He carried a handgun with him everywhere, she said, even to bed. One time she tried to pull the gun from underneath his pillow and put it on the nightstand and he told her, no, that it had to stay in bed with them. It was loaded but had a safety lock on, he told her, and she made him point the gun away from her.
“He just talked about how a gun is not a weapon to kill people,” she said. “He talked about how it’s to be used to distract people to make them leave you alone. He also said he was paranoid. That’s why he carried it.”
“I said, ‘No, you are safe at this house.’ He insisted on keeping it close to him. And I just wrote it off to the paranoia of the drugs,” she said.
One night she overheard him arguing with a woman about his children and said he had to leave. She said Ford put the conversation on speaker phone.
The woman said she heard another woman on the phone tell Ford that he wouldn’t be able to see his kids anymore.
After he left, Ford didn’t return her calls or texts that night. But he called to apologize the next day and told her the argument with his girlfriend got out of hand. But he didn’t tell her that he had been physical with his girlfriend.
The woman wasn’t looking to be exclusive with Ford, because she has older kids of her own and didn’t want to be involved with his young children. She was seeing other people, too, and she said Ford didn’t like that.
The woman told Ford she didn’t want to see him anymore until he broke off his relationship with his girlfriend completely. They didn’t speak for several weeks.
Then about two weeks before the shooting he reached out to her and said he had his own place in Newton, and no longer lived with his girlfriend in Wichita. They started seeing each other again.
Ford loved his cars, she said, and on the morning of the shooting, he talked to her about an upcoming car show he was planning to attend, and complained that his car needed to be fixed. He told her he was happy to hear from her and wanted to see her that night.
Later that evening her daughter came over and told her that she thought Ford was dead. She showed her mom an article on Facebook, and they turned on the news. Both of her children had met Ford briefly, when he was at the house, and so did one of her sisters.
“I’ve wondered what would happen if I did go to his house that night?” she said. “What if he would’ve snapped on me? ... what if he would’ve snapped on me and my kids and killed us? A lot of people have told me, ‘You are so lucky.’ I never feel lucky though. Those poor families, those poor victims.”
She has a hard time imagining what happened to Ford that day.
“One guy said he had a look in his eyes. I went over pictures and pictures and trying to see if I could see the look in his eyes that made him look crazy, and I had never seen it,” she said. “I wondered what was going through his head at the time. What was he thinking when he shot the first two people?”
She wonders if maybe Ford was looking to be killed.
“He was depressed, maybe he was, maybe he felt he was at his lowest, and it wouldn’t get better,” she said. “But I think the drugs are what intensified it and really made him lose it. Maybe he did what he did because he knew the police would shoot him? Maybe it was a suicide.”
For weeks afterward, she had a nightmare where she was with Ford in a truck and he would get out at a stoplight and start shooting. “In the dream he was really irate, just screaming and yelling,” she said. “I always woke up when he got back in the truck with me. I would always wake up.”