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Gunman targets people at random in California town, kills 4

Shooter tried to get into elementary school but failed after doors swiftly locked

Deadly California Shootings

Two women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire Tuesday, choosing targets at random. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

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A Northern California man killed two neighbours with whom he had been feuding before he went on a shooting rampage Tuesday at apparent random sites — including an elementary school that successfully locked him out — in a series of attacks where he killed two more people and injured 10 before police fatally shot him, officials said.

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.

Deadly California Shootings

Phil Johnston, the assistant sheriff for Tehama County, briefs reporters on the shootings near the Rancho Tehama Elementary School. The gunman killed four people at several sites. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Tehama County assistant sheriff Phil 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 and injured and is expected to survive.

"It was a bizarre and murderous rampage," Johnston said.

45-minutes spree

He said the 45-minute spree ended when a patrol car rammed the stolen vehicle the shooter was driving and killed him in a shootout. Johnston said the shooter was facing charges of assaulting one of the feuding neighbours in January and that she had a restraining order against him.

"I think the motive of getting even with his neighbours and when it went that far — he just went on a rampage," Johnston said. He said there was a "domestic violence" report Monday involving the gunman, but didn't provide any further details.

Deadly California Shootings

Investigators view a pickup truck involved in a deadly shooting at the Rancho Tehama Reserve, near Corning, Calif. The gunman drove stolen vehicles and fired "without provocation." (The Associated Press)

At least one of the victims has life-threatening injuries, he said.

Johnston declined to identify the shooter until his relatives were notified, but he confirmed the gunman was charged with assault in January and had a restraining order placed against him. The district attorney, Gregg Cohen, told the Sacramento Bee he is prosecuting a man named Kevin Neal in that case.

'Mom it's all over now'

Neal's mother told The Associated Press he was in a long-running dispute with neighbours he believed were cooking methamphetamine.

The mother, who spoke on condition she be named only as Anne, lives in Raleigh, N.C., where she raised Neal. She said she posted his $160,000 bail and spent $10,000 on a lawyer after he was arrested in January for stabbing a neighbour. Neal's mother said the neighbour was slightly cut after Neal grabbed a steak knife out of the hand of the neighbour who was threatening him with it.

AFP_UA1LF

Law enforcement officers and investigators converse near a police vehicle that was involved in the shooting. Nearly a dozen people were wounded, including several children. (Elijah Nouvelage/AFP/Getty Images)

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."

'Nobody could have a better mother'

She said Neal apologized to her during their brief conversation, she thought for all the money she had spent.

He also told her that, "Mom you know what, my whole life you gave me such a good happy life and nobody could have a better mother than I had."

Deadly California Shootings

A California Highway patrol officer photographs a vehicle involved in the rampage. Corning, Calif., is a tiny, rural Northern California town. (Rich Pedoncelli/Associated Press)

Then he said:

"All of a sudden, now I'm on a cliff and there's nowhere to go. No matter where I go for help here I get nobody who will help me. All they are doing is trying to execute me here."

'Our hearts are breaking'

She said until recently Neal seemed content living in the rural neighbourhood of modest homes and trailers and he grew marijuana on his property. Recently she said he began complaining about failing health he attributed to the nearby methamphetamine labs.

Neal's sister, Sheridan Orr, said the family was trying to reach the sheriff's department Tuesday evening but still had not been notified. She said her brother had struggled with mental illness throughout his life and at times had a violent temper.

Deadly California Shooting

Crime tape blocks off Rancho Tehama Road leading into the Rancho Tehama subdivision south of Red Bluff, Calif., following the mass shooting on Tuesday. (Jim Schultz/The Record Searchlight/Associated Press)

"We're stunned and we're appalled that this is a person who has no business with firearms whatsoever," Orr said. "Our deep, deep sympathy for the victims and it sounds trite but our hearts are breaking for them."

Brian Flint told the Record Searchlight newspaper Tuesday that his neighbour, whom he knew only as Kevin, was the gunman and that his roommate was among the victims. He said the shooter stole his truck.

'This guy is crazy'

"The crazy thing is that the neighbour has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines," Flint said. "We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he's been threatening us."

The shootings occurred in the rural community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, a homeowners association in a sparsely populated area of rolling oak woodlands dotted with grazing cattle about 209 kilometres north of Sacramento described on its website as a "quiet private country community" where "the people are friendly and the pace is relaxed."

Deadly California Shootings

A woman and a child sit by an elementary school where a gunman opened fire in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve in Corning, Calif., on Tuesday. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Johnston said officials received multiple 911 calls about gunfire at an intersection of two dirt roads. Minutes later, more calls reporting shots flooded in from different locations, including the school.

Witnesses reported hearing gunshots and children screaming at the school, which has one class of students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

7 shooting locations

Johnston said the shooter was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns at seven locations. He said another weapon was seen in one of the vehicles he drove but hadn't been recovered yet.

Salvador Tello said the gunman fired at a truck in front of him as he went to drop off his three children at school. Tello said he was about three blocks from the school when bullets made "big holes" in the truck.

He said he forced his children to duck down, slammed his vehicle into reverse and headed to the children's grandmother's house.

"I put my kids down and put my truck in reverse and went out," he said. "I don't believe it, because I wake up, take my kids, feed them cereal and put them in the truck and say, 'Let's go to school like a normal day."'

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