UPDATE: 6 Dead, Students Injured in Tehama County Shooting Rampage
The gunman’s family says he had “no business” owning firearms as he struggled with mental health and random bouts of anger.
Six people were killed and ten were injured in a shooting rampage on Tuesday that took place in multiple locations, including an elementary school, in a rural county in Northern California.
The Tehama County Sheriff’s Department says the gunman, who has been identified as 43-year-old Kevin Janson Neal, was killed by responding officers following a “bizarre and murderous rampage” that left five others dead. Police are dealing with at least seven separate crime scenes in connection with the shooting.
The rampage began on Monday when police say Neal shot and killed his wife and hid her body beneath the floor of their home, reports the LA Times. Her body was discovered by officers late Tuesday.
“We were looking for his wife and couldn’t find her yesterday,” said Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston. “We located her dead body concealed under the floor of the residence last night. We believe that’s probably what started this whole event.”
The following day, Neal killed his neighbor and his neighor’s mother, who he had previously had altercations with. He then stole a Ford F-150 pickup truck and crashed it. Neal shot at a man who stopped to ask him if he was okay. The man was not hit but Neal stole the man’s truck and began randomly firing a semi-automatic rifle out of the vehicle along the way.
“The citizens of Rancho Tehama — they need to check on each other, they need to check on their neighbors because this individual was literally going up and down the road shooting at random,” said Johnston.
Neal fired eight rounds at a vehicle occupied by a mother and her son. The child suffered non-life-threatening injuries but the mother was seriously injured. She pulled out her own handgun to fire back at Neal but he had driven away before she could shoot, said Johnston.
The shooter’s next stop was Rancho Tehama Elementary School. Witnesses say he drove the stolen truck through the school’s gates at high speeds, got out and opened fire. The school day had not started when school officials heard the first round of shots while many children were in the playground.
“The bell had not rang, roll had not been taken, when the shots were heard,” Richard Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Corning Union Elementary School District, said.
Still, Johnston says school officials were able to lockdown the school, calling their actions “monumental” in stopping a “horrific bloodbath”.
“All of the staff were absolutely heroic in making sure that students were getting into the classrooms as shots were being fired,” Fitzpatrick said. “This was a question of minutes.”
The shooter got out of the truck holding a semiautomatic rifle and ran into the small school’s open quad where he fired off 20 to 30 rounds at windows and walls.
Coy Ferreira, who was dropping off his daughter when the gunfire erupted, says he wound up in a classroom where students were hiding under desks. He says some bullets hit the windows and a boy was shot in the chest and foot. That student is listed in stable condition. There were no student or staff fatalities.
The gunman remained at the school for six minutes before driving off, continuing to shoot at people in his way.
Salvador Tello, a Ranch Tehama resident, says he was driving his three children to school when the gunman fired at the truck in front of him. He told his children to get down and put his truck in reverse. He says he saw a woman lying in the street with a man next to her.
Students at the elementary school were eventually bussed to a local community center. Communications were made more difficult during the incident because there is virtually no cell signal in the rural community, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The 45-minute rampage came to an end when a patrol car rammed the stolen vehicle Neal was driving and the two parties began exchanging gunfire. Neal was subsequently shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.
“The suspect was actually shooting at the police vehicle, back at them,” Johnston explained. “The officer rammed the vehicle, forced it off the road, [leading to] an exchange of gunfire resulting in the shooter’s death.”
A semi-automatic rifle and two handguns were recovered from the scene and Neal was wearing a bulletproof vest, according to wcvb.com.
“I have to tell you I am personally grateful to the men who engaged this suspect,” Johnston said. “It’s a tragic event, but I am personally grateful for engaging such a terrible, a mass murderer really. That’s what he is.”
Of the ten wounded, three were taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center, two to Saint Elizabeth Community Hospital and five to Enloe Medical Center.
Killer’s Family: He Struggled with Mental Health, Feuded with Neighbors
Authorities say Neal was out on bail after being charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a neighbor in January. Neal’s mother says she posted his $160,000 bail and spent $10,000 on a lawyer. She claims the neighbor’s girlfriend was threatening Neal with a steak knife and nicked her hand on it when Neal tried to take it from her.
A signed court order following his January arrest shows he was ordered on April 1 to surrender all firearms. Johnston says none of the guns used during the rampage were legally in Neal’s possession. He says the two rifles were “homemade” and unregistered and the two pistols were registered to another person.
Neal’s mother says he grew marijuana and was in a long-running feud with neighbors who he believed were cooking methamphetamine.
She says Neal called her the day before the shooting, saying, “Mom, it’s all over now. I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.” He said he was “on a cliff” and the people around him were trying to “execute” him.
Several neighbors say Neal had recently been firing off hundreds of rounds and was the subject of a domestic violence call the day before the attack, reports TPM News.
“The crazy thing is that the neighbor has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines,” said neighbor Brian Flint. “We made it aware that this guy has been crazy, and he’s been threatening us and everything. I just feel like there maybe should have been more effort put into stopping things like this.”
Another neighbor, Cristal Caravez, says they have complained to the sheriff’s department about Neal but nothing was done about it.
Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, says her brother had “no business” owning firearms as he has struggled with mental illness and has a violent temper. She also said her brother would get paranoid and speak of government conspiracies, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s like he had been possessed and he would often not remember or he’d feel so horrible about what he had done,” Orr said. “One day he got mad at me because of the way the washing machine sounded.”
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