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Cops: Calif. Shooting Was Almost a School Massacre

Suspect tried to enter classrooms
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2017 3:37 AM CST
Updated Nov 15, 2017 6:22 AM CST
California Gunman Tried to Enter Elementary School
Crime tape blocks off Rancho Tehama Road leading into the Rancho Tehama subdivision south of Red Bluff, Calif., following a fatal shooting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.   (Jim Schultz/The Record Searchlight via AP)

(Newser) – The mass shooting in California on Tuesday morning could have been a far more enormous horror if not for the quick thinking of staff at an elementary school, police say. A gunman that Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston describes as on a "killing rampage" shot randomly at people and homes as he drove toward Rancho Tehama School in the town of Corning, 130 miles north of Sacramento, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Teachers heard gunfire and ordered a lockdown shortly before the gunman rammed a fence with a pickup and entered the grounds with a semi-automatic rifle. He roamed the grounds and shot out windows but left, apparently frustrated, after he was unable to access classrooms. "The quick action of the school officials saved countless lives and children," Johnston says. "It was monumental." In other developments:

  • Suspect identified. Sources tell the Sacramento Bee that the suspect, who fired shots in at least seven locations before he was killed by police, was Kevin Janson Neal, 43. Johnston says he was on a "bizarre, murderous rampage" to "get even with a neighbor."

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  • Injured students. The school, where the shooter spent six minutes, has around 100 students. Four people were killed in the rampage and at least 10 injured, including a student shot inside a classroom, ABC reports. The 6-year-old boy is in stable condition, authorities say. Other students were injured by glass from the windows. No students or teachers were killed.
  • Assault arrests. Neal was arrested in January for assaulting a woman who was killed in the Tuesday rampage, the Bee reports. According to court records, he was charged in April with assaulting a second woman in January.
  • Drug dispute. Neal's mother, who lives in North Carolina, says she posted his $160,000 bail after the January assault charge. She tells the AP her son grew marijuana and was in a dispute with neighbors he believed were cooking methamphetamine. She says when she spoke to him Monday, 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."

  • Looming court date. The Red Bluff Daily News reports that Neal was due in court on Jan. 11, 2018, on charges of second-degree burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment by violence, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, possession of an assault weapon, and misdemeanor battery. Court documents state that he owned an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle. Police haven't said whether that was the weapon used Tuesday.
  • An act of heroism. Local man Jessie Sanders tells KCRA that he ran to the school when he heard shots and tried to distract the gunman. "When I get there, the dude was shooting through the windows," he says. "And I said, 'Hey, why don't you shoot this way instead.'" He says his arm was grazed by a bullet when the gunman fired in his direction.
  • Domestic violence call. Police say Neal was the subject of a domestic violence call the day before the attack, the AP reports. They haven't provided details on the call, or on whether the suspect's bail conditions allowed him to possess weapons.
  • The timeline. Police say the rampage lasted around 45 minutes starting around 8am, the Bee reports. Police say the gunman killed two people near his Rancho Tehama home and drove to the school in a stolen pickup. After driving away from the school, he rammed the truck into a car and fatally shot at least one passenger. When a citizen who had been following stopped his car to see if everyone was OK, the gunman shot him and stole his vehicle. Police say officers then rammed the car, forcing him off the road, and the gunman was killed in an exchange of gunfire.
(Read more mass shootings stories.)

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