A gunman went on a shooting spree in Northern California, killing four people and wounding 10 others in a terrifying rampage that ended in a shootout with law enforcement — soon after he tried to get into an elementary school to continue his carnage.
Two boys were among the victims — one at the school and another in a vehicle that was headed to the school. The boys are expected to survive, but the mom in the vehicle was in critical condition.
Authorities said the shooter, identified as Kevin Neal, 43, began shooting people near his home in Rancho Tehama Reserve, population 1,485, about 7:50 a.m. Behind the wheel of a stolen truck, and armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, Neal terrorized the tiny town.
As Neal drove toward the school about 2 miles from his home, he fired — apparently at random.
The shooter set his sites on Rancho Tehama Elementary School, ramming the stolen white truck through a gate just before 8 a.m. as moms and dads were dropping off their kids.
Witnesses said the gunman squeezed off nearly 100 rounds, shattering windows and wounding children and adults.
But when he tried get into the school, an emergency lockdown thwarted his plans and forced him into a gunfight with cops, who killed him and ended the horror show.
The Sacramento Bee reported that Neal was already facing an assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly stabbing a neighbor with a knife earlier this year.
Neal’s town and school assault came nearly five years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adult staffers dead, and more than a week after a Texas church shooting claimed the lives of 26 people.
Tehama County Deputy Sheriff Phil Johnston said Neal began his “shooting rampage” near his home by wounding at least one person on a residential street.
“Essentially with this individual, after the initial shooting, he took the vehicle and went on a shooting rampage throughout the community,” Johnston said.
It wasn’t clear how he selected the victims.
“Right now we have no known motive, we know of no real connection to any of the victims. Most of the victims in this case appear to be random selections,” Johnston said.
School officials warned parents by posting a message online.
“We have had an active shooter incident at Rancho Tehama Elementary this morning,” read a statement from the Corning Union Elementary School District website.
“There are confirmed injuries. We are cooperating with law enforcement during this investigation but do not have specific details at this time.”
The gunman stole a second car while fleeing the school, and began firing at responding officers, who gunned him down at a nearby intersection about 45 minutes after the ordeal began.
Officials said the shooting may be connected to “a domestic violence incident” the day before.
According to KHSL-TV, the shooter was known to police and was out on $160,000 bail for allegedly stabbing a woman in his neighborhood in February.
The Red Bluff Daily News reported that four or five shots were fired at or near Neal’s home last on Dec. 13. The person who reported the gunplay told authorities shots were fired on a daily basis.
Tuesday’s mayhem occurred near Red Bluff, about 120 miles northwest of Sacramento.
Jeanine Quist, an administrative assistant with the Corning Union Elementary School District, confirmed no students or staff were killed.
Students were among those airlifted to area hospitals. Deputies escorted a busload of children from the to the Rancho Tehama Association community building less than a mile away.
About 100 students attend the school. The area remained on lockdown for several hours.
There were at least 100 law enforcement officers at the scene.
“It’s a very sad day for us in Tehama County,” Johnston (photo inset) said. “This is a very tragic event for all of us.”
Vice President Pence tweeted his condolences.
“Saddened to hear of the shooting in N. California, the loss of life & injuries, including innocent children,” Pence wrote.
“We pray for comfort & healing for all impacted.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said she was “heartbroken” by the shooting.
“Grateful to the officers and first responders on the scene,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Anne and I are saddened to hear about today’s violence in Tehama County, which shockingly involved schoolchildren,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.
“We offer our condolences to the families who lost loved ones and unite with all Californians in grief.”