Hesston shooting victim: I just thought, ‘I’m dead’

Adam Miller, with wife, Nickie, left, and mother, Linda, discusses Thursday’s shooting in Hesston from his hospital bed. Miller was shot four times. (Feb. 26, 2016)
Adam Miller, with wife, Nickie, left, and mother, Linda, discusses Thursday’s shooting in Hesston from his hospital bed. Miller was shot four times. (Feb. 26, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Cedric Ford shot 17 people Thursday, killing three and injuring 14.

Here are stories of three survivors of the shooting spree from Newton to the Excel Industries plant in Hesston.

Adam Miller

Adam Miller was in his Hesston office following a Thursday afternoon meeting when he saw people running.

The 30-year-old manager in Excel’s welding operations went outside to see what was going on.

“I heard someone yell ‘fire,’ which happens to be our code word for a shooter,” he said. “But it didn’t register as that.”

I heard someone yell ‘fire’ which happens to be our code word for a shooter.

Adam Miller, Excel manager

As he moved through the plant to try to start evacuating people, he says, he came face-to-face with the shooter.

“I saw him coming around the corner and he just looked kind of confused and so I told him he needs to run: ‘There’s a fire,’” Miller said. “He just looked confused so I told him again and he said ‘I know’ and he shot me.”

I told him he needs to run: ‘there’s a fire.’ He just looked confused so I told him again and he said ‘I know’ and he shot me.

Adam Miller, shooting victim

Miller said he didn’t recognize the shooter at first but said he remembered him later when he heard the name swirl around: Cedric Ford.

“He did hesitate before he shot me,” Miller said. “It’s like he recognized me.”

Miller was hit twice in the chest, once in the bicep and once in the thigh. He said the pain didn’t hit him until he ran outside.

“I got to the door and my body told me that I was hurting,” Miller said. “I started limping out and saw some other people and they grabbed me and took to me to the ditch where they started first aid.”

“I’ve been told that I was calmer than most of them,” he told reporters, chuckling Friday afternoon. “But they were all very great. I don’t think most of them knew any first-aid. … But they did a great job.”

Miller was transported to Via Christi-St. Francis by ambulance.

“He was joking with the EMT,” said Nickie Miller, Adam’s wife, who is a teaching assistant at the nearby middle school. “He was like ‘Oh, I’m going to miss out on my dinner date with my wife.’”

Miller was reunited with his wife and family at the hospital Thursday night. He said his leg will need some recovery work done.

They said the support for Hesston and Excel following the shootings was “overwhelming.”

But Miller said his “heart just aches” for the man who shot him in the same plant they had once worked in together.

“He was obviously in a lot of pain,” Miller said, tearing up. “I don’t know what he was going though. But obviously he felt this was the way out.”

Dennis Britton

Stephanie Tellez, 25, got engaged to Dennis Britton, a victim of the Excel shooting, Valentine’s Day in 2015 and is now seven months pregnant.

Dennis Britton, a victim of the Excel shooting, received surgery Friday morning for a shattered femur in his leg. He got engaged to his fiance, Stephanie Tellez, on Valentine’s Day in 2015. She’s now seven months pregnant.

“I’m having a roller coaster of emotions,” she said. “I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m confused. It’s just a whirlpool of all emotions in one. But I’m just glad he’s alive.”

Midday Friday, Tellez said she was at Wesley Medical Center with Britton’s parents waiting for Britton to wake up from a surgery he went into that morning around 9 a.m.

She said Britton’s femur in his leg was shattered in three locations from one bullet.

She said he was welding in Excel when he got shot and was then carried by co-workers to an ambulance outside.

She said a friend of hers, and co-worker of Britton’s, called her around 5:30 p.m. Thursday to tell her Britton was shot.

“I was like, “Are you sure it was him?’” Tellez said about the conversation. “They were like, ‘Yes, it’s confirmed.’ They didn’t tell me where he was shot – if he was shot dead. Obviously I was hysterical.”

When she got to Wesley, she said, he was sedated with pain medication.

She said the surgeons put rods, pins and plates in Britton’s leg Friday morning to keep his femur in place. She said the doctors told her Britton would not be able to put full weight on his leg for at least three months, and that he won’t fully recover for up to a year. At this point, she said, she doesn’t know if he will need additional surgeries.

“We don’t wish death on anyone, but we’re glad that shooter isn’t going to be able to harm anyone else,” Tellez said.

Edna Decker

Edna Decker, a 74-year-old Hesston resident, dodged a bullet from Cedric Ford while driving home to Hesston from Newton on Thursday. Ford’s missed shot was the beginning of what became his shooting rampage Thursday.

Decker said she was grocery shopping in Newton and decided to drive home on Meridian because of construction.

She said she first saw Ford’s car at a stoplight on First Street. By the time they reached 12th Street, she said, he was following close behind her car, so she anticipated he would pass her.

Ford did pass Decker, she said, but then stopped his car in the middle of the road.

“By the time I came to a dead stop, he had gotten out of his vehicle and I saw that he had an assault gun, a big gun,” she said.

She said he came within about a foot of her driver’s side window.

“I just thought, ‘I’m dead,’” she said. “That was my first impulse.”

I just thought, ‘I’m dead.’

Edna Decker, 74, after Cedric Ford held gun to her car window

She said he motioned for her to get out of the car but she hesitantly shook her head.

“I knew he was going to shoot, I just knew, and so my first impulse was lay down,” over the center console, she said.

“I heard the gun as I was going down and I thought, ‘Well he’ll shoot me again in the back.’”

But he didn’t. After a bit, she said, she looked up and saw Ford had walked about 10 feet away from the car and was reloading his gun.

She said he was walking toward cars on the other side of the road.

“I thought, ‘This is my chance,’” she said.

She put the car in reverse and made a U-turn. Once in a residential neighborhood, she tried calling 911 but was so shaken that she kept dialing 919 instead.

She said she still doesn’t understand why she wasn’t killed, especially because the other cars were hit with several bullets.

The single bullet went through her driver’s side window and out the back passenger’s side window.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar