The quick decision by officials at a California elementary school to lock down the facility as a gunman threatened the area most likely prevented what was already a deadly rampage from becoming a greater tragedy.
The Sacramento Bee reports that police are crediting the lockdown at Rancho Tehama Elementary in Corning, Calif., with preventing the shooter from entering classrooms and claiming even more victims than the four who died and 10 who were injured on his rampage through the rural area in Northern California. The attack ended when police fatally shot the gunman.
Two young students from the school were wounded—one at the school, and one in a car—but no teachers or students lost their lives, police say.
Assistant Tehama County Sheriff Phil Johnston says when school officials heard shots being fired, they immediately ordered a lockdown.
The incident “could have been so much worse if it wasn’t for the quick thinking (of) staff at our elementary school,” Johnston says. “He couldn’t make access to any of the rooms; they were locked....This saved countless lives.”
The gunman was identified as Kevin Janson Neal, 43. Using a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns, Neal shot four people to death and wounded at least 10 others in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve before officers rammed into the stolen vehicle he was driving to stop him.
Authorities say the rampage lasted about 45 minutes and the gunman fired shots in seven separate locations.
During the attack, the gunman stole a pickup truck and began making his way toward the school, firing shots at random passers-by along the way.
By the time the shooter got to within a quarter mile of the school, school administrators ordered the lockdown. Neal crashed the truck through the gate of the school but was able only to get inside a bathroom.
At some point he shot out several classroom windows and wounded one of the students before leaving the school grounds.
"“He became frustrated at not being able to get into the classroom,” Johnston said about Neal. “He went mobile again.”
A statement from the Corning Union Elementary School District said some students at Rancho Tehama also were injured by shattered glass.
YouTube video from KCRA-TV: