TEHAMA COUNTY, Ca. — Police in Northern California are crediting the quick action of elementary school officials for saving lives.
Authorities said 43-year-old Kevin Janson Neal went on a nearly hour long shooting rampage in Tehama County, California Tuesday morning that left four people dead, 10 injured and a total of seven crime scenes.
One of those crime scene was at Rancho Tehama Elementary School.
"The quick action of those school officials saved countless lives and children," said Asst. Sheriff Phil Johnston.
Police said Neal had every intention of going on a shooting spree inside, but as soon as school officials heard gunshots nearby, they declared an immediate lockdown. Children were rushed inside and the doors locked once they crawled underneath their desks.
"I saw some people running around the school. I thought something happened because I heard pow, pow, pow! So many times. Pow, pow!" said Nikloy Didur who lives across from the school.
The shooter tried to open the doors, but couldn't get inside. He opened fire through the school's windows and walls.
One student, 6-year-old Alejandro Hernandez, was shot in the chest and right foot. He's recovery in the hospital, and a family member said he's expected be okay.
Several other students were reportedly hurt by flying glass.
Local authorities said the shooting spree started Tuesday after Neal killed two neighbors he had an ongoing feud with. He then took off, firing his weapon at seven different locations and hurting at least 10 people.
"This individual shooter was bent on engaging and killing people at random. I have to say this incident, as tragic and as bad as it is, could have been so much worse," Johnston said, applauding the quick thinking of the school staff.
The gunfire that triggered the alert at the school came when the shooter fired from his vehicle into others on his way to the school, about 2 miles from his home.
The killer had a tactical vest with extra magazines, and apparently chose most of his victims at random, sometimes firing at passing motorists, homes and gunning down someone after he purposely crashed into another car.
Mom raced back to school to warn people
A fearless mother may have also helped warn staff at the school about the danger.
Sara Gonzalez said she had dropped her daughter off at the school when the gunman attempted to shoot her when their vehicles passed. She thinks the gunman's windshield stopped the bullet.
She turned her vehicle around.
"I went to my daughter's school and started honking, making people know what was going on," she said.
Gonzalez said the gunman fired at her as she tried to get out to get her girl. She saw the man's face but he said nothing.
Jessie Sanders told CNN affiliate KCRA he tried to draw the gunman's attention away from the school.
He said he ran over to the school when he heard the crack of the semi-automatic rifle.
"When I get there, the dude was shooting through the windows," he told the Sacramento-based station. "And I said, 'Hey why don't you shoot this way instead.' "
Sanders said a bullet grazed his right forearm.
In the school the children were trying to stay low.
Gonzalez's daughter, Arianna Ibarra, was inside on the floor with her fourth-grade class.
"Our teacher told us to go under our desk and keep flat in case he comes inside," Arianna said.
The teacher blocked the door with a computer, the 10-year-old said.
Known to law enforcement
Johnston said the gunman had "prior contacts with law enforcement." In January the man was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in a case that involved the neighbor who died Tuesday, Johnston said.
Johnston added that the woman had a restraining order against the shooter.
It was unclear whether the gunman went to the school looking for someone he knew.
"We have not connected him with any one person in the school," Johnston said.
A semi-automatic rifle and two handguns believed to be used by the gunman have been recovered, according to Johnston. There is another gun that police have yet to recover in one of the stolen vehicles.
The gunman eventually engaged officers, who returned fire and killed him.