Owner of Wichita pet food plant gets probation in shooting of trespassing teens

The owner of a shuttered Wichita pet food business will spend two years on probation in the shooting of two teenagers who wanted to explore his dilapidated, fire-damaged property in 2021.

Kenney “Ken” Lee Thomas was accused of shooting the 17- and 19-year-olds with a 12-gauge shotgun around 10:30 p.m. on April 2, 2021. The two had just walked onto land around the TreatCo plant, 2300 N. Broadway, after climbing through a hole in a chain-link fence. Thomas, fed-up with trespassers, waited after spotting the teens headed toward the property and fired six shots without warning, striking one in the arm and leg and the other in the leg, buttocks and arm, prosecutors said.

He even pointed out the approaching teens to a police officer who was on the property that night for an unrelated trespassing report, promising to fetch his shotgun and “rustle you up two more,” court records say.

The teens told authorities they thought the TreatCo plant had been abandoned. The property has been the site of at least three fires since 2011.

Thomas, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, argued before his July trial that the shouldn’t be prosecuted because the teens were trespassers who scared him. But jurors weren’t convinced he was innocent and convicted him of two counts of aggravated battery.

Thomas’ probation carries an underlying prison term of two years, said Dan Dillon, a spokesman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office. He could be ordered to serve that time if he fails to follow the conditions of his probation.

District Judge Christopher Magana imposed the sentence Wednesday, Dillon said.