Neighbor shot by California gunman lived in fear of him

RANCHO TEHAMA RESERVE, Calif. (AP) — One of the first victims of a Northern California gunman told a judge earlier this year that she and her family lived in fear of him because he was violent and unpredictable, firing off guns at all hours and threatening her with “all kinds of perverted things.” A sheriff’s deputy on April 1 handed Kevin Janson Neal a court order to stay away from his neighbor Hailey Suzanne Poland and her family, and barred him from possessing guns.

Yellow tags mark where bullet casings found at one of the scenes of a shooting spree at Rancho Tehama Reserve, near Corning, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Law enforcement says that five people, including the shooter were killed, and several people including some children were injured during the shooting spree that occurred at multiple locations. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

This Jan. 31, 2017 photo provided by the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office shows Kevin Janson Neal, the gunman behind a rampage in Northern California. Authorities say Neal’s wife was found dead inside their home. Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston says investigators found the body of Neal’s wife hidden under the floor. Investigators believe the killing of his wife was the start of the rampage. (Tehama County Sheriff via AP)

Investigators view a pickup truck involved in a deadly shooting rampage at the Rancho Tehama Reserve, near Corning, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. A gunman driving stolen vehicles and choosing his targets at random opened fire “without provocation” in the tiny, rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing several people, including a student at an elementary school, before police shot him dead, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

California Highway Patrol Officers inspect one of the vehicles involved when a gunman went on a shooting rampage at the Rancho Tehama Reserve, near Corning, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Law enforcement says that five people, including the shooter were killed, and several people were injured during the shooting spree that occurred at multiple locations. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phil Johnston, the assistant sheriff for Tehama County, briefs reporters on the shootings near the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Corning, Calif. Authorities said, a gunman choosing targets at random, opened fire in a rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing four people at several sites and wounding others at the elementary school before police shot him dead. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Two women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Corning, Calif. Authorities said, a gunman choosing targets at random, opened fire in a rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing four people at several sites and wounding others at the elementary school before police shot him dead. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Crime tape blocks off Rancho Tehama Road leading into the Rancho Tehama subdivision south of Red Bluff, Calif., following a fatal shooting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Jim Schultz/The Record Searchlight via AP)

Law enforcement officers are seen at an elementary school in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, where a gunman opened fire Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Corning, Calif. A gunman choosing targets at random opened fire in the rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing several people at several sites and wounding others at the elementary school before police shot him dead, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phil Johnston, the assistant sheriff for Tehama County, briefs reporters about the shooting rampage by Kevin Janson Neal, during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif. Neal went on a shooting spree, Tuesday, killing several people, including his wife, before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phil Johnston, the assistant sheriff for Tehama County, displays a booking photo, from a prior arrest, of Kevin Janson Neal, during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif. Neal went on a shooting spree, Tuesday, killing several, including his wife, before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Rick Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Corning Union Elementary School District, discusses the shooting rampage of Kevin Neal, during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Corning, Calif. Neal went on a shooting spree, which included an attack on the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where one student was injured, Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife, before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Fitzpatrick cited quick action by teachers and employees for locking down the school which prevented Neal from entering any of the classrooms. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Rancho Tehama school shooting survivor, first-grader Aileen Favela, 6, poses for a photo outside the post office in Corning, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Favela received a small cut over her left eye from flying glass. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)

Lynda Patton, left, and Shawnee Flournoy, employees of the Corning Union Elementary School District, react as district superintendent, Rick Fitzpatrick, discusses the shooting rampage by Kevin Janson Neal, during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Corning, Calif. Neal went on a shooting spree, Tuesday, which included an attack on the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where one student was injured. Neal killed five people, including his wife, before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Fitzpatrick cited quick action by teachers and employees for locking down the school which prevented Neal from entering any of the classrooms. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Rick Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Corning Union Elementary School District, answers questions concerning the shooting rampage of Kevin Neal, during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Corning, Calif. Neal went on a shooting spree, which included an attack on the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, where one student was injured, Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife, before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Fitzpatrick cited quick action by teachers and employees for locking down the school which prevented Neal from entering any of the classrooms.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Plywood covers one of the windows at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, that was shot out during gunman Kevin Janson Neal’s shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif., Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife before being shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Neal is believed to have spent six minutes shooting into the school before driving off to continue his shooting spree. One student was shot but is expected to survive. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Cars are parked in front of the home of Kevin Janson Neal Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif. The body of Neal’s wife was found at the home, where Neal started his shooting rampage that left four others dead, before he was shot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Randy Morehouse, the maintenance and operations supervisor for the Corning Union Elementary School District, points to one of the bullet holes at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, from gunman Kevin Janson Neal’s shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif., Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife before being shoot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Neal is believed to have spent six minutes shooting into the school before driving off to continue his shooting spree. One student was shot but is expected to survive. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Randy Morehouse, the maintenance and operations supervisor for the Corning Elementary School District, walks past the gate, at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, that gunman Kevin Janson Neal crashed through during his shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif., Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife before being shoot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Neal is believed to have spent six minutes shooting into the school before driving off to continue his shooting spree. One student was shot but is expected to survive. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Randy Morehouse, the maintenance and operations supervisor for the Corning Union Elementary School District, points to one of the bullet holes at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, from gunman Kevin Janson Neal’s shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif., Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife before being shoot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Neal is believed to have spent six minutes shooting into the school before driving off to continue his shooting spree. One student was shot but is expected to survive. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

One of the bullet holes is seen in an exterior wall at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, from gunman Kevin Janson Neal’s shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif., Tuesday. Neal killed five people, including his wife before being shoot and killed by Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies. Neal is believed to have spent six minutes shooting into the school before driving off to continue his shooting spree. One student was shot but is expected to survive. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The wife of a gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a Northern California town was found dead inside their home, authorities announced Wednesday, raising the death toll from the attack to five. (Nov. 15)

The wife of a gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a Northern California town was found dead inside their home, authorities announced Wednesday, raising the death toll from the attack to five. (Nov. 15)

RANCHO TEHAMA RESERVE, Calif. (AP) — One of the first victims of a Northern California gunman told a judge earlier this year that she and her family lived in fear of him because he was violent and unpredictable, firing off guns at all hours and threatening her with “all kinds of perverted things.”

A sheriff’s deputy on April 1 handed Kevin Janson Neal a court order to stay away from his neighbor Hailey Suzanne Poland and her family, and barred him from possessing guns.

Records show Neal certified that he surrendered his weapons in February, but Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said they had recovered two illegal homemade assault rifles and two handguns registered to someone else.

On Tuesday, Neal shot and killed the 34-year-old woman before embarking on what authorities called a “murderous rampage” through a neighborhood in Tehama County about 130 miles (209 kilometers) north of Sacramento.

Neal killed five people and wounded at least eight others before sheriff’s deputies fatally shot him during a gun battle, Johnston said.

Several other neighbors had repeatedly reported that Neal was firing hundreds of rounds at his property.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Johnston initially said Neal “was not prohibited from owning firearms” but later acknowledged the protective order against him.

The wife of a gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a Northern California town was found dead inside their home, authorities announced Wednesday, raising the death toll from the attack to five. (Nov. 15)

After being pressed by reporters on why police did not act when Neal was in clear violation of his court order, Johnston obliquely replied: “The law is only for people who obey it.”

Poland’s slaying underscored the difficulty of enforcing restraining orders when suspects ignore them, Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said.

“Law enforcement often doesn’t realize it has a problem until it’s too late,” Levenson said.

Neal was arrested and charged with stabbing Poland and attacking her mother-in-law during a Jan. 31 encounter in their rural neighborhood. Poland filed for a restraining order a week later, writing in a plea to a judge that Neal “is very unpredictable and unstable … has anger issues.”

Tehama County district attorney Gregg Cohen said he sought a protective order for Poland and her mother-in-law after Neal’s release from jail on bail.

“Simply put, the victims were very scared of him,” Cohen said.

Neal was also known to have violent squabbles with his wife.

The gunman’s sister, Sheridan Orr, said 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.

At a tense news conference Wednesday, Johnston conceded that neighbors had repeatedly complained about Kevin Janson Neal firing hundreds of rounds from his house.

Johnston said authorities responded to calls several times, but the 44-year-old Neal wouldn’t open the door, so they left.

“He was not law enforcement friendly. He would not come to the door,” Johnston said. “You have to understand we can’t anticipate what people are going to do. We don’t have a crystal ball.”

The evidence that emerged Wednesday, however, along with residents’ statements raised questions about whether lawlessness was occasionally tolerated.

The community is a sparsely populated area of rolling woodlands dotted with grazing cattle.

“There’s hardly any police presence out here,” said Dillon Elliot, who moved away in 2001, though his parents still live there. “Every so often you’ll see them if it’s super bad.”

He said his father, who was on the homeowners’ association board, was threatened in the late ’80s and early ’90s during a dispute with a neighbor and deputies never responded.

“It’s almost like they think we’re lawless out here and they just don’t care,” he said.

Police found the bullet-riddled body of Neal’s wife stuffed under the floorboards of their home in the rural community of Rancho Tehama Reserve. They believe her slaying was the start of the rampage.

Neal then shot two neighbors in an apparent act of revenge before he went looking for random victims at the community’s elementary school and several other locations.

During the rampage that lasted 25 minutes, Neal tried and failed to get into Rancho Tehama Elementary School, but fired into the school from the outside.

Six-year-old Alejandro Hernandez was in his classroom when one of Neal’s bullets came through the window and hit him in the chest.

His aunt, Rosa A. Monroy, said he was at a Sacramento hospital awaiting surgery on his foot. It’s not clear when they will operate on the more serious wound to his upper chest and right arm, she said.

“I just pray that we can all be strong together,” she tearfully told a crowd of dozens of people that gathered for a vigil to honor the victims on Wednesday night.

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Elias reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker, Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez also contributed from San Francisco.

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