Kansas Shooting Survivor Recounts Scenes of Terror and Heroism Among Factory Coworkers

Jared Trujillo was training three new employees on Thursday when an explosion rattled the Excel Industries plant in Hesston, Kansas. The 32-year-old assembler instinctively turned towards the deafening noise. A forklift operator was sprinting towards him.

“My first thought was, ‘OK – the forklift driver ran into an oil tank and it exploded,'” Trujillo recalls to PEOPLE. “But then someone yelled, ‘Everyone off the line – someone’s shooting!’ And we all started running.”

As the plant’s workers ran for the exits, they bumped into each other; some pushed their way out, according to Trujillo, who could hear bullets ricocheting off the factory’s massive machinery as he charged for the door.

“We’re heading for the exit and I’m hearing ‘pop, pop, pop,'” Trujillo tells PEOPLE. “I was running away from the building and he just kept firing. Gunfire just kept going off.”

Trujillo says he turned back as he was escaping to check that the gunman wasn’t pursuing those who fled. He noticed a co-worker trailing behind him; Trujillo says he could see the man had been shot in the leg, so he and a woman he works with ran back to help.

“His pants were drenched in blood and we just used our shoulders to get him away from the scene,” Trujillo says. “We took him across the street and got him behind a trailer. The shots were still going off. A fellow I work with who was in the Army took off his belt, and tightened it around the top of this guy’s leg. He started shivering and we got his leg elevated.”

Trujillo and some of his co-workers ran to nearby homes, asking for blankets and help.

“We knocked on one door, and this guy I work with pulled out a $20 bill and said, ‘Here – we need blankets,'” he tells PEOPLE. “They didn’t take the money, but gave us two blankets. We wrapped him up and used the other as a makeshift pillow.”

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The injured man was transported to a nearby hospital, where doctors were able to stop the bleeding, according to Trujillo. The man underwent surgery to repair his wounds.

Trujillo says he’s proud of the people he works with for assisting the wounded, who were splayed out all across the plant’s grounds. He remembers seeing a pregnant woman he works with covered in blood from helping someone who’d been shot. One man took his shirt off and used it to apply pressure to a gunshot wound a co-worker sustained to the stomach, Trujillo recalls.

“There were a lot of heroes that went out of their way to care for the wounded,” he proclaims. “Some of those people saved lives last night.”

Dramatic Scene as Trujillo and Wife Reunite on Live TV

Trujillo, who only got married to his wife last July, had run out without his phone. After learning of the shooting at her husband’s work, Jennifer Trujillo tells PEOPLE she was frantic for information about him.

“I called his mom, crying, and she hadn’t heard from him so I got in the car and started driving to Hesston,” Jennifer says. “I just needed to know he was okay. I needed to see him.”

As local media were interviewing Jennifer, Jared walked up behind her; the emotional reunion was broadcast on live television.

“That’s the hardest I’ve hugged him in my life,” Jennifer says; the couple first started dating four years ago. “I was just so happy to see him alive and OK. I couldn’t even imagine how he was feeling, having to experience all of that.”

Shooter ‘Never Smiled at Work and Didn’t Seem Happy’

Both Jennifer and Jared Trujillo are familiar with the man behind Thursday’s violence. Jared worked with Cedric Ford, who also lived across the street from the Trujillo home.

“He seemed like he was kind of alone,” Jennifer tells PEOPLE. “He was just sad. I didn’t see much activity over there. A couple of days ago, he had furniture delivered. He seemed to be settling in.”

Jared says that the shooter – who Trujillo says showed up to Excel’s plant with an AK-47, a pistol, and an assault rifle – “never smiled at work and didn’t seem happy.”

He adds: “There was something dark about him. He was depressed and sad, and from what I understand, he had mental health issues and people at work had been teasing him.”

Trujillo tells PEOPLE his co-workers told him the shooter said, “I will be back,” before he left the plant early on Thursday. He claims investigators told him that the shooter went home, grabbed his guns, and headed back to work, randomly firing upon strangers as he passed.

Another Excel employee, David Oppenheimer, tells PEOPLE he got to a safe distance before looking back at the plant.

“I saw the gunman came out the side door, and he went around the front of the building, holding an AK,” Oppenheimer says. “I saw him shoot at a cop that was driving by, and then he went back inside the building.”

The shooter’s rampage claimed the lives of three people and left more than a dozen others wounded. He was killed by police after a brief standoff.

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