HESSTON, Kan. – Cedric Ford “never came off as a bad guy,” according to a co-worker. But his run-ins with the law dated back more than a decade.
On his first visit to a zoo, he was awestruck by the beauty of wildlife, said the co-worker, who described Ford as laid-back and a good listener.
But on Thursday, the Kansas man unleashed a deadly shooting spree, attacks that began shortly after authorities served him with a protection-from-abuse order.
Ford, 38, was armed with an assault rifle and an automatic pistol, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said.
Two people were shot in Newton, Kansas, before the gunman went to his workplace in the nearby town of Hesston and started firing.
A Kansas sheriff’s deputy served Ford a protection order just 1½ hours before he began opening fire, according to Walton. The subsequent flurry of bullets ended with at least 14 wounded and three others dead before the shooter was shot and killed.
“I believe that probably is the trigger, and it went from there,” Walton said of the order.
The order was served to him at his workplace, Excel Industries in Hesston, according to Walton.
“They said he was upset, but nothing greater than anybody else who gets served a PFA,” Walton told reporters, citing witnesses. The sheriff added that the person who filed the order did not work at Excel.
In the order, Ford’s girlfriend wrote that on February 5 he “became physical by him pushing me then grabbing me.”
She added, “He placed me in a choke hold from behind — I couldn’t (breathe). He then got me to (the) ground while choking me — finally releasing me.”
The woman described Ford as an “alcoholic, violent(ly) depressed.”
“It’s my belief he is in desperate need of medical (and) psychological help!” she wrote.
It’s unclear why the order — signed and stamped by the court on February 5 — was not served until Thursday.
Ford was already known to local law enforcement, according to Walton.
“All I can say is he’s been in my jail a couple of times before,” Walton said.
Matt Jarrell, a friend and co-worker who witnessed at least one person being shot, told CNN affiliate KSNW that “never in a million years” would he expect Ford — one of the few people he was close to at work — to do something like this.
Few details of Ford’s life were immediately available, but he appeared to be active on Facebook, where he described himself as a painter at Excel Industries.
On his page he shared his fondness for rap, guns, cars and children.
The page says Ford lived in Newton and was from Miami.
According to the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office, Ford was arrested in 2000 by Pembroke Pines police in connection with car break-ins and then again in 2004 by Broward County deputies for parole violations.
Jarrell recalled one particular conversation he and Ford had about a visit to the zoo. He described Ford as a “mellow guy” and “someone I could talk to about anything.”
It was the first time in Ford’s life he had gone to the zoo, Jarrell said, and he was in awe.
“There are little things we take for granted that we see all the time or we’ve grown up seeing,” Jarrell said. “And this guy, you know, he was just touched going to the zoo.”
“He never came off to be a bad guy.”
Videos can be seen on Ford’s Facebook page that appear to be from a recent zoo visit.
“It was amazing I (sic) never seen wildlife in my life besides pitbull and Rottweiler puppies lol” he wrote in a January 30 post.