Four dead af­ter gun­man’s ram­page at ran­dom tar­gets in Cal­i­for­nia

Shooter, killed by po­lice, tried un­suc­cess­fully to en­ter el­e­men­tary school

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By MARK BERMAN and SU­SAN SVRLUGA

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.

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 class-

rooms, 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 de­clined to iden­tify the gun­man late Tues­day af­ter­noon, say­ing of­fi­cials still had to no­tify the man’s nextof-kin, but he said this per­son had pre­vi­ously 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. “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 kinder­gart­ner 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.

Still wear­ing their back­packs, chil­dren in one class­room hid un­der their desks and then were told to hud­dle in a teacher’s of­fice, Fer­reira said. Three stu­dents ap­peared too fright­ened to run back, Fer­reira said.

The gun­man — vis­i­ble out the win­dow, wear­ing green cam­ou­flage, Fer­reira said — fired a vol­ley of bul­lets at the class­room’s win­dows. When he moved on to the next room, stu­dents who had re­mained un­der their desks were told to run back to the of­fice space with oth­ers, but one child wasn’t mov­ing, Fer­reira said. He had been shot in the chest and leg.

The other teach­ers came out to try to stop the bleed­ing and he was even­tu­ally taken to the hos­pi­tal, Fer­reira said.

“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 five-yearold shot twice.”

Fer­reira said he told his daugh­ter that she was smart and a good lis­tener for do­ing what she was told. “She said, ‘Daddy, you told me there would be no bad peo­ple at school,’’’ Fer­reira re­called, “and how am I sup­posed to an­swer her.”

The ages of those killed and wounded were not im­me­di­ately re­leased by au­thor­i­ties.

En­loe Med­i­cal Cen­ter said it had re­ceived five pa­tients from the shoot­ing, three of whom were treated and re­leased Tues­day. Two re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized by the af­ter­noon, ac­cord­ing to a hos­pi­tal spokes­woman. While the vic­tims’ ages were not im­me­di­ately avail­able, the hos­pi­tal had said ear­lier in the day it was treat­ing at least three chil­dren.

RICH PE­DRON­CELLI/AP PHOTO

Yel­low tags mark where bul­let cas­ings were found Tues­day at one of the scenes of a shoot­ing spree at Ran­cho Te­hama Re­serve, Calif.

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