RANCHO TEHAMA RESERVE, Calif. — An apparent felon who had been shooting hundreds of rounds of bullets in recent days in a small community in Northern California began firing at random Tuesday, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others.
The gunman shot at people and property in seven locations, said Undersheriff Phil Johnston of the Tehama County Sheriff's Office. He called the incident a "bizarre and murderous rampage."
Johnston said officials at Rancho Tehama Elementary School heard gunfire and immediately locked down the facility.
He says it was “monumental” that school workers took the action they did and he had no doubt they saved children's lives.
Shortly before 8 a.m. PT, the gunman stole a pickup truck, went on a shooting spree, crashed the truck, stole a second vehicle and continued shooting before two deputies rammed his car, forcing it off the road. In an ensuing shootout, deputies killed the man.
The sheriff's office has not released the shooter's name nor his motive. The man was involved in a domestic violence incident Monday and had been involved a few months earlier in a stabbing.
Two children are among the wounded Tuesday.
One of the children was shot at Rancho Tehama Elementary School and taken to a hospital, and a second child was in a car with his mother. The wound of the child in the car was not serious, but his mother's injuries are life threatening, Johnston said.
Deputies escorted a busload of students from the school, which houses about 100 kindergarteners to fifth-graders, to a safer location, the Rancho Tehama Association community building less than a mile away. No students or staff were killed, said Superintendent Rich DuVarney of the county education department.
Brian Flint said he got a call in the morning that his roommate was injured and that his truck had been stolen. It turned out his neighbor was the gunman.
“The crazy thing is that the neighbor 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.”
Living near the gunman was "hell," Flint said, and the man was a known felon who often harassed Flint and his neighbors.
The shooter had a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns, Johnston said.
Joseph Raven was doing tile work with a co-worker at a Rancho Tehama home when the shooting started.
"We heard the bullets fly right next to our ears," Raven said. "There were screams: a female screaming, a male screaming. There were helicopters all over the place."
The FBI is sending some teams to assist Tehama County investigators, said Jason Wandel, chief division counsel at the FBI's Sacramento field office.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, a Republican from Gerber, Calif., whose district includes Rancho Tehama, called the incident "senseless violence." Other politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence, also offered their condolences.
Rancho Tehama resident Salvador Tello said he was taking his three children to school when the gunman fired at a truck in front of him.
Tello saw bullets hit the truck, so he made his children get down and put his own truck in reverse, he said. As he left, he saw a woman lying in the street, apparently dead, with her husband next to her, apparently wounded.
Corning Union Elementary School District released a statement Tuesday evening saying that all Rancho Tehama students and staff had been accounted for and that the school would be closed until law enforcement completed an investigation and repairs could be made to the building.
"School staff is commended for their courageous and professional response to this terrible incident," the statement read. "The school was able to go on lockdown very quickly and effectively, which prevented any further injury or violence."
Katrina Gierman, who lives near the school, said she heard gunshots when she went outside.
"I have not left my house because I am with my newborn son, very scary moment," Gierman said. "I have the right to bear arms, and I will protect my son if I have to."
Another resident with a baby, Casey Burnett, said she saw the gunman driving around the area, shooting randomly from his car.
Rancho Tehama Reserve, a subdivision that is home to almost 1,500 people, is described on its website as a “quiet private country community” located 12 miles west of Interstate 5 and about 110 miles northwest of Sacramento.
In 2010, more than 86% of the community's residents were white, and Rancho Tehama's poverty rate was 43%, according to Census Bureau data from 2010.
Rosie DeOliveira, administrative assistant at the association, said deputies for much of the morning had instructed the community, including the elementary school and airport, to shelter in place and stay low.
"Our doors are locked," she said.