BALTIMORE, Maryland — Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, asked his brother bishops meeting in Baltimore to pray for the victims of the nation’s latest shooting tragedy.
The bishops were gathered for the second day of their annual fall assembly Nov. 14. Early that morning in Northern California, a gunman opened fire at random locations, including near a grade school, in a rural area, leaving at least four people dead and at least 10 others injured.
The gunman behind a rampage in Northern California who was out on bail for a charge of stabbing a neighbor, had been the object of complaints from neighbors who said he had been firing off hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and had been the subject of a domestic violence call the day before the attack.
Yet Kevin Neal was free and able to use a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns Tuesday to shoot 14 people in seven different locations across his rural community, including an elementary school, before he died in a shootout with police.
Tehama County, where the crime took place, is one of several counties that comprise the Sacramento Diocese.
California Gov. Jerry Brown in a statement said he and first lady Anne Gust Brown “are saddened to hear about today’s violence in Tehama County, which shockingly involved schoolchildren. We offer our condolences to the families who lost loved ones and unite with all Californians in grief.”
Neal’s mother told The Associated Press her son, who was a marijuana grower, was in a long-running dispute with neighbors he believed were cooking methamphetamine.
She said she posted his $160,000 bail and spent $10,000 on a lawyer after he was arrested in January for stabbing a neighbor. Neal’s mother said the neighbor was slightly cut after Neal grabbed a steak knife out of the hand of the neighbor who was threatening him with it.
She wept as she told The Associated Press she spoke to Neal on the phone on Monday.
“Mom it’s all over now,” she said he told her. “I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.”
She said Neal apologized to her during their brief conversation, she thought for all the money she had spent on him, saying he was “on a cliff” and the people around him were trying to “execute” him.
“I think the motive of getting even with his neighbors and when it went that far — he just went on a rampage,” said Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston.
Police said surveillance video shows the shooter unsuccessfully trying to enter a nearby elementary school after quick-thinking staff members locked the outside doors and barricaded themselves inside when they heard gunshots.
Johnston said the gunman spent about six minutes shooting into Rancho Tehama Elementary School before driving off to continue shooting elsewhere. Johnston said one student was shot but is expected to survive.
This report incorporated material from the Associated Press.