Crime & Courts

Lawsuit targets pawn shop in deadly Excel Industries shooting

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A Newton pawn shop is being sued for allegedly selling firearms during a known “straw purchase,” which resulted in the deaths of three people in a shooting spree at Excel Industries in 2016.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said it filed the lawsuit against A Pawn Shop on Wednesday in Harvey County.

A straw purchase happens when a person who is prohibited from buying firearms uses another person to buy a gun on his or her behalf.

On Feb. 25, 2016, Cedric Ford opened fire on his colleagues at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston. Ford killed three people and injured 14 others before Police Chief Doug Schroeder fatally shot Ford.

Sarah Jo Hopkins, 28, the mother of Ford’s children, purchased the guns used in the shooting – including a semi-automatic assault rifle – according to an arrest affidavit filed in 2016. She was charged with knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon.

A Pawn Shop transferred the AK-47 and Glock handgun to Hopkins, the lawsuit alleges, despite numerous indications that she was acting as a straw purchaser for Ford, the center said in a news release.

The lawsuit says A Pawn Shop should have known Ford was paying for the handgun because Hopkins allegedly used his credit card to do so.

Hopkins knew of Ford’s criminal history – or had reason to think he had one – including his felony convictions, which barred him from possessing firearms, the affidavit said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Joshua Higbee, who was killed in the shooting spree.

The owner of A Pawn Shop said Wednesday afternoon that he hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

The Brady Center’s Vice President, Jonathan Lowy, said in a news release, “Whatever your views are on gun issues, we can all agree that gun dealers have a responsibility to do what they reasonably can to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. When a gun dealer chooses to engage in irresponsible sales practices that arm dangerous people, that dealer should be held accountable.”

Nichole Manna: 316-269-6752, @NicholeManna