Five dead, in­clud­ing gun­man, in ram­page that in­cluded Cal­i­for­nia el­e­men­tary school

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Mark Ber­man and Su­san Svrluga

RAN­CHO TE­HAMA, Cali. – A gun­man shoot­ing at ran­dom peo­ple and lo­ca­tions killed four peo­ple Tues­day in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, tar­get­ing an el­e­men­tary school and a woman driv­ing her chil­dren to school dur­ing the ram­page, au­thor­i­ties said.

This lat­est burst of gun­fire to ter­ror­ize a com­mu­nity – which fol­lowed deadly mass shoot­ings in Ne­vada and Texas – un­folded with­out an im­me­di­ate ex­pla­na­tion, as the gun­man spewed bul­lets across what po­lice de­scribed as “a very wide­spread area.”

Ten peo­ple were in­jured and taken to area hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing at least two chil­dren, one of whom was at the el­e­men­tary school, po­lice said. No chil­dren were among those killed, which ended when law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, re­spond­ing to the car­nage, fa­tally shot the gun­man, iden­ti­fied later as Kevin Jan­son Neal, 44.

Even as au­thor­i­ties de­scribed a gun­man leav­ing a bloody trail through the ru­ral com­mu­nity, they also warned that the hor­ror, “as tragic and as bad as it is, could have been so much worse,” as Phil Johnston, an as­sis­tant sher­iff in Te­hama County, told re­porters.

When the gun­man ar­rived at Ran­cho Te­hama El­e­men­tary School on Tues­day morn­ing, he rammed the fence and marched onto the grounds wield­ing a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle and wear­ing a vest em­bed­ded with ad­di­tional clips, Johnston said. But when the gun­man ar­rived, Johnston said, he was un­able to en­ter the class­rooms, be­cause school of­fi­cials had heard gun­fire be­fore he ar­rived and im­me­di­ately locked down the premises.

The at­tacker fired dozens of rounds at the school, of­fi­cials said, shoot­ing out win­dows and through walls of class­rooms, in­jur­ing at least one stu­dent with gun­fire and oth­ers with bro­ken glass.

But since he could not get inside, the frus­trated gun­man aban­doned the school af­ter about six min­utes and went else­where, said Johnston, prais­ing the school of­fi­cials who “saved count­less lives and chil­dren.”

The blood­shed be­gan shortly be­fore 8 a.m., Johnston said.

Po­lice re­ceived “mul­ti­ple 911 calls of mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent shoot­ing sites, in­clud­ing the el­e­men­tary school” in Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve, a small area about 135 miles north of Sacra­mento, he said.

“It was very clear early on that we had a sub­ject that was ran­domly pick­ing tar­gets,” Johnston said.

Johnston said Neal had pre­vi­ously been known to law en­force­ment.

Po­lice did not im­me­di­ately iden­tify a mo­tive for the at­tack, though they said said it was ap­par­ently pre­ceded by a dis­pute the shooter had with a neigh­bor.

The gun­man was ar­rested and charged in Jan­uary with as­sault­ing this neigh­bor – an un­named woman – with a deadly weapon. She was among the vic­tims killed Tues­day, said Johnston, who de­clined to iden­tify her or a man found dead in the same area.

Ear­lier Tues­day, Johnston had said that po­lice were told by neigh­bors that “there was a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent” in­volv­ing the sus­pected at­tacker, who had a res­i­dence in Ran­cho Te­hama. A re­strain­ing order had been is­sued to the shooter, Johnston said, but he did not know the specifics of what was in the order.

“This is an in­di­vid­ual that armed him­self, I think with the mo­tive of get­ting even with his neigh­bors, and I think when it went that far, he just went on a ram­page,” Johnston said.

The gun­man’s wrath was in­dis­crim­i­nate, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff’s of­fice. He fired at homes as he passed them and, at one point, in­ten­tion­ally crashed into a ve­hi­cle with other peo­ple in it, only to be­gin shoot­ing at them as they got out, killing one of them, Johnston said.

In an­other ap­par­ently ran­dom en­counter, a woman was driv­ing her chil­dren to school when she crossed paths with the shooter. He “opened fire on them with­out provo­ca­tion or warn­ing,” se­verely in­jur­ing her and wound­ing one of her chil­dren, Johnston said.

“She told me that she doesn’t know this per­son, never seen this per­son, does not know why he started shoot­ing at her,” Johnston said. “She was just pass­ing by him.”

The gun­man also did not have any ap­par­ent con­nec­tion to the el­e­men­tary school or any­one inside it, Johnston said, and “chose the school as a ran­dom tar­get.”

One boy at the school was shot and wounded when the gun­man fired from out­side, Johnston said. School of­fi­cials said this stu­dent was in sta­ble con­di­tion.

“It’s a very sad day for us here in Te­hama County,” Johnston said.

Dur­ing the at­tack on the school, Coy Fer­reira, 32, whose daugh­ter is a kinder­gartener there, said he heard what he thought were fire­works. Then the 8 a.m. whis­tle blew three times, even though it was not 8 a.m., and a school of­fi­cial or­dered every­one to rush inside be­cause there was a gun­man, Fer­reira said.

Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Two school of­fi­cials em­brace on the grounds of the Ran­cho Te­hama El­e­men­tary school in Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve in Corn­ing, Calif. A gun­man armed with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle and two hand­guns went on a shoot­ing spree Tues­day, killing four peo­ple and wound­ing at least 10 oth­ers be­fore of­fi­cers shot and killed him.

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