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Gun Policy

Kansas Shooting Suspect Was Banned from Owning Guns

Cedric Ford was a convicted felon who was served a protective order 90 minutes before he began his rampage.

The suspect in the Hesston, Kansas, shooting rampage amassed an extensive criminal record that prohibited him from legally owning or purchasing a gun. Cedric Ford, 38, had felony convictions in his home state of Florida for dealing cocaine, as well as burglary, grand theft, and illegal possession of a gun by a felon. Any of these convictions would have blocked him from passing a background check.

“He’d stand no chance of purchasing or possessing a firearm lawfully or legally in the state of Kansas,” Tyler Garretson, a Kansas-based criminal defense attorney who has dealt extensively with cases involving felony gun possession, tells The Trace. 

Ford killed three people and injured 14 others at his workplace, the Excel Industries factory, before he was killed by a police officer responding to the scene. Witnesses said he used an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle. In one picture found on a Facebook account appearing to belong to Ford, he posed with such a rifle as well as a Glock pistol equipped with an extended magazine. In another photo posted to a social media, a Glock pistol rested on his thigh as he sat in a car’s driver’s seat.

Ford also had a history of misdemeanor convictions in Kansas, though none would have prohibited him from possessing a firearm. He was convicted of harassment in 2008, disorderly conduct in 2009 and 2010, and driving under the influence, also in 2010. Following his 2009 disorderly conduct conviction, Ford was sentenced to anger management treatment.

While Kansas automatically restores firearm rights to some felons five to ten years after they have been released from jail, Florida only restores felons’ rights if they receive a pardon from a special commission. Petitioners must wait eight years after the end of a criminal sentence to seek such a pardon. Ford’s Florida convictions would still have caused him to fail a background check even if he attempted to purchase guns in Kansas.

On Thursday, at 3:30 p.m., less than two hours before the killing began, the Harvey County sheriff’s office located Ford at the Excel plant and served him with a temporary protection from abuse order. The petition, first obtained by the Wichita Eagle, had been filed on February 5 by Ford’s girlfriend, with whom he shared a home. On that day, according to her, the two had been “verbally fighting,” before it “became physical.”

“He placed me in a chokehold from behind,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe. He then got me to [the] ground while choking me.”

She added, “He is an alcoholic, violent, depressed. It’s my belief he is in desperate need of medical and psychological help!”

Neither the petition nor the order mentions if Ford was in possession of guns or whether he was likely to be armed. In Kansas, as in most states, a temporary order does not result in the automatic relinquishment of the defendant’s weapons.

According to the court documents, on February 12, Ford was first served a protective order calling for a hearing on February 18. Ford, however, missed the hearing, and a new one was scheduled for March 10.

[Photo: Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle via AP]