Neigh­bors’ dis­pute ig­nites ram­page

Gun­man slays 4 peo­ple in spree, po­lice kill at­tacker

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NEWS - By Melody Gu­tier­rez, Jenna Lyons and Steve Ruben­stein

RAN­CHO TE­HAMA RE­SERVE, Te­hama County — A neigh­bor­hood dis­pute turned into the na­tion’s lat­est mass shoot­ing Tues­day when a gun­man killed four peo­ple and wounded 10 oth­ers, choos­ing most of his vic­tims at ran­dom in a ram­page that spread to an ele­men­tary school in this ru­ral com­mu­nity 115 miles north of Sacramento, au­thor­i­ties said.

The spree, which ranged over sev­eral lo­ca­tions and in­jured at least two chil­dren at Ran­cho Te­hama Ele­men­tary School, ended when the killer — who like his vic­tims was not im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fied, and whose mo­tive was un­known — was shot dead by law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

The bar­rage of gun­fire erupted around 8 a.m. near the man’s home in Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve, a com­mu­nity of about 1,500 peo­ple south­west of Red Bluff, and lasted about 45 min­utes as the man stole two ve­hi­cles and drove

around shoot­ing peo­ple, in­clud­ing at the school at­tended by nearly 100 chil­dren, said the Te­hama County sher­iff ’s of­fice.

Two peo­ple died near the gun­man’s home, in­clud­ing a woman liv­ing nearby with whom the shooter had a run­ning dis­pute, said county As­sis­tant Sher­iff Phil John­ston. In Jan­uary, the gun­man was ar­rested in connection with an as­sault in­volv­ing the woman, John­ston said, and a re­strain­ing or­der had been is­sued against him in connection with that ar­rest.

He also said the gun­man had been out on bail and that po­lice had re­sponded to a “do­mes­tic vi­o­lence” in­ci­dent in­volv­ing him Mon­day, but did not pro­vide de­tails.

Af­ter the ini­tial shoot­ings near the killer’s home on Bob­cat Lane, the gun­man stole a ve­hi­cle and be­gan driv­ing to­ward the ele­men­tary school, shoot­ing ran­domly at peo­ple and homes on the way, John­ston said.

“This guy was bent on driv­ing by res­i­dences and ar­bi­trar­ily shoot­ing at them,” John­ston said. “This guy was on a killing ram­page.”

At the school, teachers heard the sounds of gun­fire and quickly or­dered a lock­down. Al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the shooter drove onto the school prop­erty at high speed in a white pickup, came out of the truck with a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle and started shoot­ing, said Rick Fitz­patrick, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Corn­ing Union Ele­men­tary School Dis­trict.

The gun­man shot at class­rooms and tried but failed to get in­side, John­ston said. No stu­dents or school em­ploy­ees were among the dead.

“The quick ac­tion of the school of­fi­cials saved count­less lives and chil­dren,” John­ston said. “It was mon­u­men­tal.”

He said the wounded vic­tims in­cluded at least one stu­dent in­side the school and a woman and a child in a car out­side, au­thor­i­ties said.

The woman’s in­juries were de­scribed by au­thor­i­ties as “life-threat­en­ing.” John­ston said the woman “had no clue who he was or why” the shooter had opened fire.

“This was a bizarre, mur­der­ous ram­page (to) get even with a neigh­bor,” John­ston said.

Ap­par­ently “frus­trated that he was un­able to get into the class­rooms,” John­ston said, the gun­man drove off. Over the course of the next quar­ter hour or so, he shot at sev­eral more peo­ple at ran­dom, crashed his stolen ve­hi­cle and com­man­deered an­other one.

The ram­page ended at what John­ston de­scribed only as an “in­ter­sec­tion,” where two uniden­ti­fied law en­force­ment of­fi­cers spot­ted the man and forced his car off the road.

“The sus­pect shot at po­lice out the win­dow,” John­ston said. “There was an ex­change of gun­fire, re­sult­ing in (the gun­man’s) death.”

As the day went on, at least 100 of­fi­cers col­lected ev­i­dence at seven crime scenes. They re­cov­ered a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle, two hand­guns and at least one stolen ve­hi­cle. It was not im­me­di­ately known whether the guns were reg­is­tered to the killer, but John­ston said the man was not legally pro­hib­ited from pos­sess­ing firearms.

John­ston said the num­ber of ca­su­al­ties could in­crease and that rel­a­tives of the gun­man were un­ac­counted for.

Near the school, a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as Brian Flint said his room­mate was one of the slain vic­tims, and that the gun­man was his neigh­bor, whom he iden­ti­fied as “Kevin.”

Flint said the man had been act­ing “crazy” and fir­ing guns be­fore Tues­day, and had stolen his pickup truck dur­ing the ram­page.

An­other wit­ness said the gun­man was a lo­cal res­i­dent who was “known to fire weapons non­stop.”

Juan Car­avez, the pres­i­dent of the lo­cal home­own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, said his group had, in the past, re­ceived about two dozen com­plaints about the man.

“We can al­ways hear him shoot­ing,” he said. “A lot of neigh­bors called. We would hear the shoot­ing every day.”

The pro­pri­etor of a cof­fee shop about a half-mile from the ele­men­tary school said she heard “at least 100 rounds” dur­ing Tues­day’s shoot­ing at­tack.

“Af­ter hear­ing the first 30 shots, we called 911,” said Tif­fany Rodgers, who owns Cof­fee Ad­dic­tion. “I heard peo­ple yelling, ‘Get down, get down.’ ’’

Rodgers said she also heard the “yelp­ing of a dog” she be­lieved had been shot.

Sue Keat­ing, who lives two blocks from the school, said a com­pan­ion told her she heard many shots “and as­sumed some­one was hunt­ing.”

Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve is an un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­nity. Its small down­town has a mar­ket, post of­fice, an of­fice build­ing, a sand­wich shop and the cof­fee shop. There is no stop­light.

“We’ve never had some­thing like this here, so you don’t think about it,” Keat­ing said.

Some of those wounded Tues­day were taken to En­loe Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Chico. Nicole Jo­hans­son, a spokes­woman for the med­i­cal cen­ter, said three peo­ple were treated and re­leased and two pa­tients re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized. She ,de­clined to dis­close their con­di­tions or say whether they were adults or chil­dren.

A re­view of the po­lice shoot­ing will be run by the Red Bluff Po­lice De­part­ment with as­sis­tance from the county dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol and the FBI.

The vi­o­lence came within seven weeks of three other hor­rific mass killings across the coun­try. On Oct. 1, a gun­man opened fire from a high­rise Las Ve­gas ho­tel onto a coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val, killing 58 and wound­ing 546. On Oct. 31, a man in a truck de­lib­er­ately ran over peo­ple on a New York City bike path, killing eight and wound­ing 11. On Nov. 5, a gun­man opened fire in a church in Suther­land Springs, Texas, killing 26 and in­jur­ing 20.

Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein is­sued state­ments Tues­day de­plor­ing the vi­o­lence in Cal­i­for­nia. Brown said he was “sad­dened to hear about to­day’s vi­o­lence, which shock­ingly in­volved school­child­ren,” and Fe­in­stein asked, “When will this stop and how can we stop it?”

Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Two women em­brace out­side Ran­cho Te­hama Ele­men­tary School, where a gun­man opened fire, in­jur­ing at least two chil­dren.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

Deb­bie El­wor­thy, res­i­dent of the 1,500-pop­u­la­tion Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve, re­ceived a re­verse 911 call Tues­day morn­ing that warned her about the ac­tive shooter.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

FBI agents in­ves­ti­gate the scene at Ran­cho Te­hama Ele­men­tary School, where no chil­dren were killed but at least two were hurt.

Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

In­ves­ti­ga­tors check out a pickup truck that was in­volved in a deadly shoot­ing spree at the Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve. It is one of two ve­hi­cles stolen by the gun­man dur­ing his ram­page.

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