Calif. gunman is said to have chosen targets at random
RED BLUFF, Calif. — A gunman choosing targets at random opened fire in a rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing four people at several sites and wounding others at an elementary school before police shot him dead, authorities said.
The gunfire began around 8 a.m. in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, about 130 miles north of Sacramento.
Police offered no immediate word on the assailant’s motive, but a sheriff’s official said the shooter’s neighbors had reported a domestic violence incident.
‘‘It was very clear at the onset that we had an individual that was randomly picking targets,’’ Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said.
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots and children screaming at an elementary school about five miles down a road from where the shooting is believed to have started.
Several people were wounded at the school, said Jeanine Quist, an administrative assistant with the Corning Union Elementary School District.
Salvador Tello said the gunman fired at a truck in front of him as he was dropping off his three children. Tello said he was about three blocks from the school when bullets made ‘‘big holes’’ in the truck in front of him.
He said he forced his children to duck down and slammed his truck 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 says ‘Let’s go to school like a normal day.’’’
On the way, he said, he saw an apparent gunshot victim and police at another scene.
Details were still sketchy hours after the shootings, and authorities did not have a firm count of the wounded due to the number of places the gunman attacked, Johnston said.
Authorities recovered a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns.
The rural subdivision is described on its website as a ‘‘quiet private country community’’ where ‘‘the people are friendly and the pace is relaxed.’’ The homeowner association’s website says there are 2,016 lots in the community and 1,346 voting members.
Two hospitals said they were treating a total of seven gunshot victims, including at least three children.
At least one student was wounded at the school. Another child was shot while driving with a woman, who also was wounded, Johnston said.
He declined to release the name of the shooter but said he was ‘‘aware’’ of a domestic violence incident that neighbors reported.
Brian Flint told the Record Searchlight newspaper in the city of Redding that his neighbor, whom he knows only as Kevin, was the gunman and that his roommate was among the victims. He said the shooter also stole his truck.
‘‘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.’’