Northern California Gunman's Wife Found Dead, Bringing Death Toll To 6

Nov 15, 2017
Originally published on November 15, 2017 6:34 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

I'm Kelly McEvers in Culver City, Calif., with an update on yesterday's deadly shooting rampage in rural Northern California - a rampage where the shooter at one point ended up in an elementary school. Now at least 10 people are wounded, and six are dead. The dead include the gunman and his wife. Police say they found her body today, and they also provided more details about him.

NPR's Eric Westervelt is here with an update from Tehama County. Hey there, Eric.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So what are police saying about this gunman?

WESTERVELT: Well, the gunman was 43-year-old Kevin Neal. He grew up in North Carolina, moved to California about 10 years ago to work as a mechanic. That job didn't work out. He got married. And from all accounts, Kelly, he struggled to keep down a steady job. He ended up in this, you know, small, rural community.

And over time, people say he became increasingly angry, isolated and volatile. There were a lot of domestic violence calls to the Neal home. The assistant sheriff here, Phil Johnston, today said Neal was, and I'm quoting here, "a madman on the loose."

MCEVERS: What did they say about his wife, who they found dead today?

WESTERVELT: Yeah, they haven't released her name. You know, they've been worried about her whereabouts. Last night at a press conference, they said they were trying to track down relatives of Neal's. She was found last night. Her body was hidden inside the Neal home. They think her murder Monday night kicked off this murderous rampage. Here's Assistant County Sheriff Phil Johnston, and a heads up for listeners, it includes some disturbing details.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PHIL JOHNSTON: Part of the investigation, we were looking for his wife - couldn't find her yesterday. We located her dead body concealed under the floor of the residence last night. She was obvious victim of several gunshot wounds.

MCEVERS: Obvious victim of several gunshot wounds - and there are new details about the weapons that the gunman used. I understand he made some of them himself. Is that legal?

WESTERVELT: No, it's not. I mean, he used two semiautomatic rifles in this attack that were, in police words, manufactured illegally by him at his home. I mean, they certainly were not registered either. I mean, you can buy these kits online or at gun shows, or if you're handy, make some of your own machine parts at home.

So yeah, he made these. It wasn't legal. He also had two handguns that were - they weren't homemade, but they were not registered to him. And he had a lot of ammunition as well.

MCEVERS: And he was out on bail at the time of the attack. He had a restraining order against him. I mean, wouldn't this restraining order include restrictions on access to firearms and ammunition?

WESTERVELT: Yeah, I mean, he'd spent time in jail for assault with a deadly weapon against his neighbor - his neighbor that he killed yesterday, you know. And then there was that restraining order.

I mean, court documents show that as part of that order, he was prohibited in February from having guns. The Associated Press reports court documents show he turned over his weapons, but, you know, as I just mentioned, he was also making some illegal AR-15s, you know, in his basement. He was making his own guns.

The sheriff today said when police would, you know, show up, Neal, in his words, was not law enforcement-friendly. He would not come to the door. You know, and a few times, they set up some surveillance teams near his home hoping he'd come out to enforce this. But those efforts didn't work.

The sheriff today said, you know, we can't anticipate what people are, you know, going to do. We don't have a crystal ball.

MCEVERS: Right. What are people there in Tehama County saying? I mean, are they angry about this restraining order or that it might not have been enforced properly?

WESTERVELT: Yeah, I mean, talking to people on the ground here, Kelly, there's a little bit of anger. There's certainly some shock and confusion. But there's anger, too, that, you know, this wasn't enforced - this restraining order - as vigorously as it could. The gun ban wasn't enforced as vigorously as it could have, you know. And the bigger picture, really, were they doing enough to keep an eye on a man who appeared to be growing more violent and unhinged?

MCEVERS: NPR's Eric Westervelt in Northern California's Tehama County. Thank you very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.