Sheriff: Multiple deaths, injuries in Kansas shooting

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HESSTON, KAN. — A county sheriff said Thursday it is possible "as many" as three to four people are dead, including a suspect, and up to 20 people may be injured after a series of shootings in south-central Kansas.

Sheriff T. Walton said at a news conference Thursday evening there are "a number of crime scenes involved," including the Excel Industries plant in Hesston, north of Wichita, which manufactures lawn mower products. The suspect, who was an Excel employee, was fatally shot by authorities.

The sheriff said a shooting also took place in the plant parking lot and two other locations nearby. The scene at Excel Industries has been secured, he said.

Walton said he couldn't give an exact number of people killed and injured.

"We want to get everybody identified. We're working on that," Walton said.

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.

Walton said a lot was still unknown about the Kansas attacks. He did not explicitly say whether the shootings were related.

"I don't have a lot of answers," Walton said.

Martin Espinoza, who works at Excel, was in the plant during the shooting. He heard people yelling to others to get out of the building, then heard popping, then saw the shooter, a co-worker he described as typically pretty calm.

Espinoza told The Associated Press the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. At that point, the shooter got a different gun and Martin took off running.

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

KSN-TV footage showed a large law enforcement presence at Excel Industries and at least one person being loaded into an ambulance. A college nearby was briefly locked down.

Hesston is a community of about 3,700 residents about 35 miles north of Wichita. Excel Industries was awarded the Governor's Exporter of the Year award in 2013 from the Kansas Department of Commerce. The company manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment and was founded in Hesston in 1960.

Walton said the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation had been called in to assist.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas City office of the FBI did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.

Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, said Brownback is being briefed by the Kansas Highway Patrol's superintendent. She had no further information

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

Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Maria Fisher in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.


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