Family says gunman who killed 5 grew up in NC, was ‘troubled’

Kevin Neal (Corning Police Department via KRON)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — The family of Kevin Neal, the man who killed five people and wounded 10 in a shooting in Northern California on Tuesday, only found out about the shooting when the Associated Press called them, the family told CBS North Carolina’s Lauren Haviland.

Investigators now say he also killed his wife before the shooting spree began.

CBS North Carolina’s David Hurst spoke with Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, Wednesday evening.

“To see my mother, who had tried so hard to save him, and to make him a good person and to make him a happy, productive citizen and then to hear that – it was a primal scream that I will never forget,” Orr said.

Orr said she feels like she is being pulled in “so many different directions.”

She also called the combination of guns and mental health issues a “toxic combination.”

“I mean, what do we do next? How do you even grapple with that? And how do you turn that into positive change or make it up to those victims or make sure there aren’t any more?” she said.

The Associated Press called Neal’s mother, Anne, on Tuesday night in regards to the shooting, but she thought it was about his past crimes, a family member said. The Associated Press broke the news about the rampage shooting to the mother of the man authorities say was the shooter.

According to the Associated Press, Neal was out on bail for a charge of stabbing a neighbor, had been the object of complaints from neighbors who said he had been firing off hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and had been the subject of a domestic violence call the day before the attack.

Yet Neal was free and able to use a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns Tuesday to shoot 14 people, killing five, in seven different locations across his rural community, including an elementary school, before he died in a shootout with police, the Associated Press wrote.

According to the Associated Press, it’s not yet clear what the terms of Neal’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 sheriff’s officials give details on the domestic violence call.

Authorities said Wednesday it is now believed the shooting started when Neal shot and killed his wife at his home. Her body was found hidden in the home late Tuesday.

According to the family, Neal and his mother had not seen each other in 5 years but talked daily and were close. The gunman moved to California about 12 years ago and was raised in Cary and went to East Carolina University. The school confirmed that Neal attended classes from August 2001 to May 2004. He did not earn a degree and was an undeclared major.

The family told CBS North Carolina that Neal was very smart, but “troubled.”

The family released a statement to the media saying, “We feel horrible for everyone out there involved. We are very sorry. The kids won’t ever forget this.”

Orr told the Associated Press her brother had struggled with mental illness throughout his life and at times had a violent temper.

She said Neal had “no business” owning firearms.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said the shooter was facing charges of assaulting one of the feuding neighbors in January and that she had a restraining order against him.

Johnston did not comment on the shooter’s access to firearms.

Neal’s mother told The Associated Press her son, who was a marijuana grower, was in a long-running dispute with neighbors he believed was cooking methamphetamine.

She said she posted his $160,000 bail and spent $10,000 on a lawyer after he was arrested in January for stabbing a neighbor. Neal’s mother said the neighbor was slightly cut after Neal grabbed a steak knife out of the hand of the neighbor who was threatening him with it.

She wept as she told The Associated Press she spoke to Neal on the phone on Monday.

“Mom it’s all over now,” she said he told her. “I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.”

She said Neal apologized to her during their brief conversation, she thought for all the money she had spent on him, saying he was “on a cliff” and the people around him were trying to “execute” him.

“I think the motive of getting even with his neighbors and when it went that far — he just went on a rampage,” Johnston said.

Police said surveillance video shows the shooter unsuccessfully trying to enter a nearby elementary school after quick-thinking staff members locked the outside doors and barricaded themselves inside when they heard gunshots.

Johnston said the gunman spent about six minutes shooting into Rancho Tehama Elementary School before driving off to continue shooting elsewhere. Johnston said one student was shot but is expected to survive.

He said the 45-minute rampage ended when a patrol car rammed the stolen vehicle the shooter was driving and killed him in a shootout.

Johnston said officials received multiple 911 calls about gunfire at an intersection of two dirt roads. Minutes later, more calls reporting shots flooded in from different locations, including the school.

Family members told CBS North Carolina that Neal had a long criminal history in Wake County.