Yesterday’s mass shooting inÂ Tehama County, California, is already being forgotten. But let’s not forget it right away.
In case you missed it, the shooter’s name wasÂ Kevin Janson Neal. Law enforcement says that his first victim was his wife, whose name is not given in news stories. After Neal killed her, he hid her body under floorboards. Then he shot and killed two neighbors. After that, he went tearing around on a spree, killing two more people. In total, he shot 14 people in seven locations, including an elementary school; fortunately, nine victims survived, including two children. Neal was killed by police.
No one can say this couldn’t have been anticipated. The guy had a long history of domestic and other violence.
In February, the shooter was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, battery, crimes against an elder or dependent adult and discharging his firearm with gross negligence, PEOPLE confirms.
He was to stand trial on those charges on Jan. 11 and was out of jail on $300,000 bail at the time of his shooting spree.
Soon after the shootings on Tuesday, another neighbor spoke to reporters and said the killer had been firing off his guns in recent weeks and threatening his roommate. The neighbor said police were aware of this erratic behavior.
At the time of the attack, the gunman was out on bail after he was charged with stabbing a neighbor. Others had complained about him firing hundreds of rounds from his house, and he had been the subject of a domestic violence call the day before the shootings.
Yet he was out on bail. This is what he did at the elementary school:
The rampage could have been worse, Johnston said, had not the staff at the school heard gunshots around a quarter-mile away and initiated a lockdown.
“The shooter literally took his vehicle and rammed their fence and gate, entered the grounds on foot with a semiautomatic rifle,” Johnston said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
“It appears that because he couldn’t make access to any of the rooms â€” they were locked â€” that he gave it up and re-entered the vehicle and then went on his killing spree and took it to the streets of Rancho Tehama,â€ Johnston said. “So I really want to say that the quick action of those school officials, there is no doubt in my mind based on the video that I saw, saved countless lives and children.”
One child was wounded at the school and another child being driven to school was struck after Neal fired into a vehicle driven by a woman who was also wounded, Johnston said.
Yes, it could have been worse. And if he’d been in the county jail where he belonged, it would have been better.
Yet Kevin Neal was free and able to use a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns on Tuesday to shoot 14 people, killing four, in seven different locations across his rural community, including an elementary school, before he died in a shootout with police.
It is not yet clear what the terms of Nealâ€™s bail were, and whether he would have been allowed to possess and fire the weapons on his property at the end of a dirt road in Rancho Tehama Reserve. Nor did sheriffâ€™s officials give details on the domestic violence call.
But his many contacts with authorities raised questions of why he was out of custody and able to go on the 45-minute rampage that began with the killing of two neighbors in an apparent act of revenge before he went looking for random victims.
Someone — besides the now deceased Neal — needs to answer for this.