The gunman who went on a rampage in Northern California was a “deranged, paranoid killer” who was out on bail after assaulting two neighbors this year, authorities say.
Kevin Neal, who was killed Tuesday by police after killing five people and injuring 10 others, was arrested in January following a confrontation with two of his neighbors, according to court documents obtained by CNN.
Neal confronted two of his female neighbors on Jan. 31, according to Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen, before he fired a gun at both women and then stabbed one of them. Neal then held the women hostage “for a period of time,” Cohen said Wednesday.
He was arrested and jailed in Tehama County, but Neal made a $160,000 bail and was freed, allowing him to return home. But he continued to harass the neighbors he’d been accused of assaulting.
Cohen said the women were concerned when he came back, and they received a protective order against Neal in February that prohibited him from having any contact with either of them.
According to Cohen, Neal would repeatedly call the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, saying he believed the women were manufacturing methamphetamine.
Cohen’s office later prosecuted Neal on seven charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of false imprisonment by violence and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence.
“Simply put, what has occurred in our Northern California, rural county, is simply the mass murder, shooting rampage of a deranged, paranoid killer,” Cohen said.
Shooter was ordered to surrender firearms
As part of the protective order, Neal was ordered to surrender his firearms to authorities and was not allowed to purchase additional weapons, though Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said at a press conference Wednesday he didn’t know whether Neal had surrendered the weapons.
But authorities have said that Neal illegally manufactured the guns that he used during the Tuesday morning shooting. According to Johnston, handguns recovered by police were not registered to Neal.
Johnston said Neal “was not law enforcement friendly.” Authorities had responded to his house several times when neighbors complained of shots being fired from the property.
Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, told CNN’s Sara Sidner that her brother had struggled with mental health issues for years. Her mother saw a noticeable decline in his mental health about a year ago, Orr said, and the family had tried to get him help.
Rampage lasted 25 minutes
Police believe Neal killed his wife late Monday night on the eve of the shooting rampage, hiding her body under a floor in his home.
Later that morning, Neal shot and killed one of the women who had the protective order against him before stealing a pickup truck and firing on random homes and motorists.
Neal came upon Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where he crashed the truck through a locked gate and opened fire on the building, terrified teachers and their pupils still inside.
“The only sounds I could hear were the shots,” said Jennifer Bauman, a teacher at the school. “It was horrifying … there are certain parts that I’m still not ready to talk about.”
Neal attempted to enter the school, but school staff heard gunfire as Neal approached and put the school on lockdown, hurrying students inside and locking the doors.
He left after six minutes, Johnston said, apparently frustrated he couldn’t get inside. One boy was injured from gunfire.
Neal continued his rampage for several minutes before two police officers encountered him at an intersection and returned fire, killing him. Police said that aside from the shootings in his neighborhood, Neal’s targets appeared to be random.
The community held a vigil Wednesday to mark the shooting. Neighbors prayed, wept and applauded teachers who saved children’s lives.