California Shooting Continues a Concerning Trend

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California Shooting Continues a Concerning Trend

The scene of the shooting at a California elementary school.

The scene of the shooting at a California elementary school.

The scene of the shooting at a California elementary school.

The scene of the shooting at a California elementary school.

Ben Westcott, Staff Writer

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    On November 15, just before 8AM, Tehama county police department received multiple calls about gunshots fired in a residential Rancho, CA area, just under a mile away from Rancho Tehama School.

    The shooter, Kevin Janson Neal wreaked havoc early Tuesday morning when he began a shooting spree in his own home, murdering his wife. He then shot and killed one of his neighbors whom he had a continuing dispute with.

      Neal, a fairly new resident of the community, gained quite the reputation in his time living in Rancho. Brian Flint, one of the shooter’s neighbors stated that Neal had continuing altercations with a woman that lived near him who, earlier this year, he attacked and stabbed with a knife. He was arrested in January, but posted the $160,000 bail and was issued a restraining order by a Tehama district court judge. Part of the order restricted Neal from owning any firearms, but the semi-automatic rifle and the two handguns he used on the day of the shooting are believed to be homemade.

  Neal stole his neighbor’s pickup truck and shot upon 7 various locations around the small town, firing upon pedestrians, and people in their houses and cars before arriving at Rancho Tehama [elementary] School.

 “This individual shooter was bent on engaging and killing people at random,” Tehama County sheriff Phil Johnston said. (NYTimes)

 Neal crashed the stolen truck into a surrounding fence and entered the school, but was unable to do significant harm because school officials had heard the gunshots before Neal arrived and were able to get the whole school under lockdown.

 “This incident, as tragic and as bad as it is, could have been so much worse if it wasn’t for the quick thinking and staff at our elementary school,” Johnston said.

 Frustrated, Neal began to shoot through the windows of the school, injuring two students and killing two school officials.

 The rampage lasted approximately 45 minutes, ending when officials ran the truck off the road, shooting and killing Neal. The immediate death toll was four people, but just a day after rose to five after one of the shooting victims died in the hospital.  

 Neals older sister, Sheridan Orr, told reporters that Neal had a worsening mental condition, and refused to get help.        

 “He just continued to devolve and descend into conspiracy theories and hallucinations and delusions of grandeur,” Orr said.

 Neal’s mother said that just before the shooting, he told her it was all over for him and that he had done everything he could do. His mother, along with the rest of his family did not take his last words to heart, as they had heard similar statements from him for over 20 years.

 The family had tried to get Neal mental help, but he left before they could do anything. Once he moved to California, they begged him to go to a mental health facility to help himself, but Neal told them he was afraid that the government would come after him.

 Authorities know that he suffered from mental illness because of the descriptions that his neighbors and family provided, but there was never an official diagnosis because Neal never visited a mental institution or any doctor.

 This is among a handful of incidents where harm to innocent people is mostly due to a mental condition that was not treated in time. Although treatment for mentally ill persons has greatly improved throughout the 21st century, the bigger problem may be that persons that have or may cause harm that have mental illness may not be determined mentally ill, and most of the time, mental illness gets worse the longer you go without treating it. Finding and treating mental illness as soon as it is found may help to avoid incidents like this in the future.