Hesston remains strong one year after Excel Industries shooting

HESSTON, Kan. (KSNW) – Saturday marks one year since the tragedies in Harvey County.

KSN takes a look back, and a looks toward the future as the community of Hesston continues healing, one year after a wave of violence stuck the town.

A gunman randomly opened fire at those driving down the street, before turning his violence on his own workplace, leaving three co-workers dead, and 14 more injured at the Excel Industries Plant in Hesston.

RELATED LINK | KSN.com coverage of the shooting at Excel Industries

One year later, the healing process is still evident throughout town, signs of #HesstonStrong still line the streets, one on the front door of the Hesston police station, as this community knows healing is different for those that lost loved ones that day.

“I can’t imagine what they’re feeling and all I can do is let them know that we really our thoughts are still there, our prayers are still there, and we haven’t forgotten,” said David Kauffman, Hesston’s Mayor.

Chief
Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder talks about the shooting one year later. (KSN Photo)

“They take care of each other, and I think that’s the true measure of the community, going above and beyond for each other, some of which is neighbors and people they have never met,” explained Chief Doug Schroeder, Hesston Police Dept.

And to think, it could have been worse.

Schroeder said he’s thankful, that just two weeks before, the Hesston Police Department and the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office had done National Incident Management Training.

“No community can be prepared for this, but we can be more prepared than we were last week,” stated Chief Schroeder.

And, that’s what he and other officials in Harvey County took away from this tragedy: the importance of educating the public that mass shootings can happen anywhere.

“It doesn’t just happen on the nightly news somewhere else, that it’s not going to affect them, but it very well could be in their backyard,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder and other law enforcement officers are now stepping up efforts to educate schools, work places and other communities on the reality of mass shootings, and how critical it is to be prepared.

“That’s kind of the shocking reality that most people are having to live with, and hopefully, we can pay those lessons forward and help other communities prepare,” explained Schroeder.

This police chief, and other city leaders say they don’t want the town of Hesston to be defined by the shootings at excel on that dark February day, rather, they want Hesston to be known for its resilience.

“Some people have asked if we were worried if we would be defined by those tragedies, but as far as the people of Hesston are concerned that’s not the case,” said Kauffman.

“In 10-20 years from now, how I would like for this to be remembered is just how our community just pulled together and surrounded those victims with love and comfort. We grew stronger from it,” stated Schroder.