By Ralph Ellis
(CNN) — When a Kansas man went on a shooting rampage, most people ran in the other direction.
But not law enforcement officers like Doug Schroeder.
Schroeder, the police chief in the small town of Hesston, followed when gunman Cedric Ford stormed into the Excel Industries lawn care equipment factory, authorities said.
Inside the plant, the men exchanged gunfire. Schroeder shot and killed Ford, who was armed with an AK-47 style assault rifle and a .40-caliber handgun, authorities said.
Three people were killed and 14 were wounded, but Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said it could have been much worse. The police chief, he said, “saved multiple, multiple lives.”
“Understand there is probably 200 or 300 people in that building while this is going on,” Walton said. “This man was not going to stop shooting. The only reason why he stopped shooting is because that officer stopped the shooter.”
Governor praises police chief
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was the first to identify Schroeder. In a press conference he praised the law enforcement response, saying, “The Hesston police chief in particular went in immediately to address the situation rather than even waiting on backup. He went right in and did heroic duty and service.”
Schroeder could not be contacted for comment. He didn’t speak at any press conferences and nobody answered phone calls to his residence in Hesston, a town of about 3,700 people 35 miles north of Wichita.
Schroeder, 40, is a graduate of Central Christian College and has worked 18 years for the Hesston Police Department, according to his LinkedIn account. The department has six officers, according to the website PoliceOne.com.
The city was proud of its chief. A few years ago Schroeder completed a 22-week program at the School of Police Staff and Command at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, with a 4.0 GPA, the city’s Facebook page reported, concluding with, “Congratulations Chief!”
Cedric Ford killed three people at factory
Ford, 38, seemed to be shooting people at random, Walton said, possibly upset because a former girlfriend took out a protective order against him.
Around 5 p.m. Thursday, police got a report that a man driving his two children had been shot in the shoulder in nearby Newton. Another call came in a short time later about someone who had been driven off the road into a ditch, been shot, and had his or her car stolen, according to Walton.
While authorities responded at these sites — having no idea where the shooter was heading next — Ford went to Excel, the lawn care equipment manufacturer where he was employed. Excel is about 6 miles from the first shooting scene.
Ford started firing in the parking lot, wounding one person, then kept it up as he went inside. Inside, three plant employees were killed.
The violence ended when Schroeder went inside and killed Ford about 5:24 p.m., Walton said.
“Even though he took fire, he went inside of that place and saved multiple, multiple lives,” Walton said. “[He’s] a hero, as far as I’m concerned.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho, Joshua Berlinger and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.
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