Students were running around on the playground and parents were dropping their children off at Rancho Tehama Elementary School Tuesday morning when the school secretary heard the first gunshots fired by Kevin Neal up the road. Without delay, the administrators started a reverse evacuation and lockdown procedure, whisking children and parents alike into the elementary school. By the time Neal—who was on a shooting rampage throughout the small town—arrived at the campus, two-thirds of the school’s 100 students were inside, said district superintendent Richard Fitzpatrick.
The school’s head custodian saw Neal crash his truck into the school’s gate and begin walking toward the facility, so the custodian stepped out and distracted him while the rest of the students were ushered into safety. Neal began firing but his gun jammed, providing essential seconds for the custodian to escape.
"The custodian's actions in diverting the attention from the shooter at that time gave us the much-needed seconds to complete the (lockdown) process," Fitzpatrick said in a Wednesday press conference. "That amount of seconds was critical."
Through surveillance video, Neal can then be seen going from door to door trying to find an entry, and when he failed, he began shooting through the school’s walls, windows, and doors. One child received gunshots in his chest and right foot while crouching under a table inside the classroom and is in fair condition at a local hospital.
Neal was unable to find an unlocked door to access the students, parents, and staff in the school, so he left the campus and was shot and killed by police a short time later. Fitzpatrick acknowledged that while one student was seriously injured, the incident could have ended much worse.
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