Death toll rises to 6 in Tehama shooting after gunman's wife found killed

The death toll in mass shooting Tuesday near an elementary school in Rancho Tehama, a small rural community of California, rose to 6, local police confirmed Wednesday.

The death toll in mass shooting Tuesday near an elementary school in Rancho Tehama, a small rural community of California, rose to 6, local police confirmed Wednesday.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said at a news conference Wednesday that the fatal incident apparently began Monday night with suspect Kevin Janson Neal shooting his wife to death with multiple rounds of bullets and hiding her body under the floor of their home.

Neal, who was called by Johnston as "a madman on the loose," drove out his home Tuesday morning with two semi-automatic guns and started his bloody journey along streets in the community, about 190 km north of California state capital Sacramento.

The massacre left a total of six people dead, including Neal, and eight people injured, seven of them children, Johnston said, adding that Neal just fired randomly at homes and structures before he was killed in an exchange of fires with two policemen.

Johnston revealed that the first call for help came into the sheriff's dispatch center at 7:54 a.m. and that by 8:19 a.m., law enforcement officers had engaged Neal and killed him.

He said police officers heard the shots near the school and immediately went there and locked it down. The shooter found he could not get into the school, then shot 20 to 30 rounds at the school for about six minutes.

"It's monumental that the school went on lockdown," Johnston told reporters, "I really, truly believe that we would have had a horrific bloodbath at that school."

He added that he thought the killer "had a desire to kill as many people as he could."

The Corning Elementary School District, who supervises Rancho Tehama Elementary School, released a statement Tuesday night, saying "this morning prior to the beginning of classes, a gunman crashed his vehicle through the school's locked gate and fired dozens of shots at School."

"The gunman shot out windows and through walls. In addition to injuries from broken glass, a student on campus was wounded by gunfire. We are informed that the student is in stable condition," the statement reads.

It also praised school staff's courageous and professional response to the incident, emphasizing that "the school was able to go on lockdown very quickly and effectively, which prevented any further injury or violence."

"I don't know what his motive was," Johnston said, but he confirmed that authorities believed that Neal, who has a history of domestic violence, killed his wife first.

The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported Wednesday that Tehama County Superior Court records showed Neal was charged with assault, false imprisonment, battery and other charges in late January in connection with an attack on two women. He was released later after his mother paid US$160,000 on bail.

Brian Flint, a young man, told the Redding Record Searchlight earlier that he knew the suspect, who was a known felon and often harassed him and his neighbors. However, Neal's mother, who refused to disclose her name, told local media that Neal was bullied by neighbors who poisoned his dogs.

Local and national politicians responded to the bloody incident at the first time after Tuesday's fatal shooting, including US Vice President Mike Pence.

"Saddened to hear of the shooting in N. California, the loss of life & injuries, including innocent children," Pence wrote on Twitter. "We commend the effort of courageous law enforcement. We'll continue to monitor the situation & provide federal support, as we pray for comfort & healing for all impacted."

California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement Tuesday afternoon on his website that he was "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," the statement reads. 

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