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