Authorities say a shooting rampage in California that left 5 people dead and injuring at least 10 others could have been much worse. The gunman, Kevin Janson Neal, 43, shot randomly at people and homes as he drove toward Rancho Tehama School in the town of Corning, 130 miles north of Sacramento. Teachers heard gunfire and ordered a lockdown shortly before the gunman rammed a fence with a pickup truck and entered the grounds with a semi-automatic rifle. He roamed the grounds for about 6 minutes and shot out windows but left, apparently frustrated, after he was unable to access classrooms. Police say he fired shots in at least seven locations before he was killed by police.
Police believe the motive was a bizarre revenge plot against his neighbors following a dispute in January. At a news conference, Tehama County, California, Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said Neal’s wife had been found dead in their home on Tuesday night. Authorities suspect she was fatally shot on Monday, after which Neal hid her body under the floor. Police had been at the home earlier that day in response to a domestic violence call.
The shooting spree began on Tuesday at about 8 a.m. in Neal’s neighborhood. Both neighbors who filed charges against him —a man and a woman—were killed at the start of Tuesday’s rampage. Police say after Neal shot his neighbors, he stole the unidentified male neighbor’s white pickup truck and drove it through town, doing several random drive-by shootings of residences in the community of about 1,500 people. Authorities say a 6-year-old boy was shot in the chest and foot at the school and is in stable condition. Other students were injured by glass from the windows but no students or teachers were killed because of the quick thinking staff at the school.
Rancho Tehama resident Salvador Tello, who was taking his three children to school, described seeing the gunman open fire, killing a woman. Tello said he saw bullets strike the truck in front of him and he put his children down to protect them and put his truck in reverse to get away. As he left, he saw a woman lying dead in the street and her wounded husband next to her. At one point, the shooter crashed the truck and carjacked a driver for his small sedan. The suspect then drove past a woman taking her children to school and fired gunshots ‘without provocation’ into their truck. The woman and her son were injured and both are recovering.
Neal was being prosecuted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon that occurred in January. Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen said “Neal had a long-running dispute with his neighbors and during the January incident, he allegedly shot through a wooden fence at two female neighbors as they walked along the fence. Neal then jumped the fence, confronted the women, stabbed one and took a cellphone from the other.” Neal was also involved in an assault on a male neighbor in February.
Neal’s mother says she posted his $160,000 bail after the January assault charge. She said her son was a marijuana farmer and was in a dispute with neighbors he believed were cooking methamphetamine. She says when she spoke to him Monday and he said he felt like he was on a “cliff” and people were trying to “execute” him. She says he told her “Mom, it’s all over now. I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.” Neal’s sister described him as becoming extremely paranoid, spending hours on the phone with his mother who try to calm him down.