Friday 23 August 2019

School shooter killed wife before attacking school with self-made guns, says Sheriff

Kevin Janson Neal, the gunman behind a rampage in Northern California
Kevin Janson Neal, the gunman behind a rampage in Northern California

Jeremy B White

The assailant who killed four people across a northern California community murdered his wife before embarking on his rampage, an official said.

After suggesting in the shooting’s aftermath that domestic violence was involved, Assistant Tehama County Sheriff Phil Johnston said officials believe that the shooter — identified as Kevin Janson Neal — had shot and killed his wife and then hidden her body in a hole in the floor of his house.

“We’re confident he murdered her, shot her at some point Monday,” Mr Johnston said, adding that “we believe that's probably what started this whole event”.

Mr Johnston has previously referenced an “ongoing neighbourhood dispute” involving Neal which led to his arrest for assaulting a woman with a deadly weapon. He was out on bail for that offense. The unnamed woman was one of the four people Neal killed on Tuesday before dying in a clash with authorities.

In addition to the four slain adults, Mr Johnston said, the attack injured at least eight people. Seven children sustained injuries, four of them at an elementary school Neal briefly visited before being turned back by locked doors, , barriers that Mr Johnston said averted a “horrific bloodbath”. One child is in critical condition.

According to Mr Johnston, neighbours described conflict at the shooter’s household as commonplace and relayed hearing shots emanating from the property.

A woman and a child sit by an elementary school where a gunman opened fire in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve in Corning, California
A woman and a child sit by an elementary school where a gunman opened fire in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve in Corning, California

“I think that was a very common thing with this couple in this neighbourhood…‘OK, they’re back at it again,’” he said.

Attempts by authorities to intervene were frequently rebuffed, Mr Johnston said, as Neal “was not law enforcement friendly. He would not come to the door”. He added that officers put the house under surveillance at least twice.

Authorities now believe that Neal illegally built his own weapons, Mr Johnston said, adding that Neal was “prohibited under a restraining order clause” from owning firearms.

“The firearms that were used in the incident, we’re confident were manufactured by him,” Mr Johnston said, adding that two semiautomatic rifles seized by authorities “were obtained in an illegal manner, not through a legal process. They are not registered”.

Two women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire
Two women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire

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