4 dead in random shooting rampage
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 unfolded without an immediate explanation, as the gunman spewed bullets across what police described as "a very widespread area."
About 10 people were injured and taken to hospitals, including at least three children, one of whom was at the elementary school in Rancho Tehama Reserve, police said. No children were among those killed, which ended when law enforcement officers fatally shot the gunman.
"As tragic and as bad as it is, (it) could have been so much worse," Phil Johnston, an assistant sheriff in Tehama County, told reporters.
When the gunman arrived at Rancho Tehama Elementary School on Tuesday morning, he rammed his vehicle into the fence and marched onto the grounds wielding a semiautomatic rifle and wearing a vest embedded with additional clips, Johnston said. But the gunman was unable to enter the classrooms because school officials had heard gunfire 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 shooting 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.
Johnston declined to identify the gunman late Tuesday afternoon, saying officials still had to notify the man’s next-of-kin, but he said the person had been known to law enforcement.
Police did not immediately identify a motive for the attack, though they 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.
The gunman also did not have any apparent connection to the elementary school or anyone inside it, Johnston said.
Still wearing their
backpacks, children in one classroom hid under their desks and then were told to huddle in a teacher’s office, said Coy Ferreira, 32, whose daughter is a kindergartner there.
The gunman — visible out the window, wearing green camouflage, Ferreira said — fired a volley of bullets at the classroom’s windows. One boy was shot in the chest and leg; teachers assisted and prepared him to be taken to the hospital.
“That’s when he started crying that he wanted to go home and be with his mommy,” he said. “He didn’t want to go to the doctor. … This 5-year-old shot twice.”
The boy was reported in stable condition Tuesday night.
When law enforcement officers found the gunman, he was chasing and firing at another vehicle, Johnston said. An officer rammed the gunman’s car, forcing it off of the road, and he exchanged shots with the officers, who ultimately killed him.
Johnston said police recovered a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns believed to be used by the shooter.
Two unidentified women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire Tuesday in Corning, Calif. Several people were wounded at the school.