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Woman charged with providing guns to Kansas shooting suspect

Kansas shooting

Alicia and James Ditty attend a candlelight vigil at Heritage Park a day after the shooting rampage in Hesston, Kan.

(Travis Heying / Associated Press)

Authorities say a woman has been charged with providing firearms to the gunman who killed three people and injured several others at a factory in Kansas.

Prosecutors announced Friday that 28-year-old Sarah T. Hopkins was charged with one count of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon.

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She’s accused of giving two weapons to Cedric Ford, who was fatally shot by police during the Thursday shootings at Excel Industries in Hesston.

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An affidavit says the Newton woman gave Ford a Zastava Serbia, which is an AK-47-type semi-automatic rifle, and a Glock Model 22 40-caliber handgun.

Prosecutors say Hopkins knew Ford wasn’t allowed to have a firearm because he was a felon.

Ford was killed during a shootout with the police chief in Hesston, a town about 30 miles north of Wichita, after opening fire Thursday at the Excel Industries lawnmower parts plant where he worked, authorities said Friday. Ford also shot and wounded two people from his car as he drove to the site.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said earlier Friday that Hesston’s police chief, Doug Schroeder, was a “tremendous hero.” Walton said between 200 and 300 people were in the factory at the time, and the “shooter wasn’t done by any means when Schroeder chased and shot him.

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“Had that Hesston officer not done what he did, this would be a whole lot more tragic,” Walton said.

Authorities identified the dead as 44-year-old Brian Sadowsky of Newton; 31-year-old Josh Higbee of Buhler; and 30-year-old Renee Benjamin, whose hometown wasn’t immediately available. All three victims worked at the plant and were killed inside the building.

Walton said his office served Ford with a protection-from-abuse order at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, about 90 minutes before the first shooting happened. He said such orders are usually filed because there’s some type of violence in a relationship. He did not disclose the nature of the relationship in question.

Authorities on Friday said Ford had a history of domestic violence, including an arrest in Newton in November 2008 for felony battery and disorderly conduct. He also was arrested in July 2010, for driving while intoxicated and obstruction.

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The shooting came less than a week after a man opened fire at several locations in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area, leaving six people dead and two severely wounded. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive in those attacks. The suspect remains in custody.

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