‘How do they get past that’ after Rancho Tehama elementary school shooting?
Tehama County sheriff’s deputies were called to gunman Kevin Janson Neal’s rural neighborhood 21 times in the year leading up to Neal’s fatal shooting rampage last week.
Neal’s neighbors called six times to complain that Neal was firing a gun unsafely or directing gunfire at them. Three of those calls were made in August – six months after Neal, 44, was supposed to have surrendered all of his firearms because of a court order stemming from his arrest on assault charges.
Neal and his wife, the former Barbara Anne Glisan, initiated seven calls themselves to the Sheriff’s Department, accusing their neighbors of manufacturing methamphetamine, harassing them and even pointing a weapon at Neal at one point. Law enforcement officials said they couldn’t confirm the allegations, and Neal’s family members have said the Tehama gunman was delusional and suffered from other mental problems.
The escalating feud between the Neals and their neighbors on Bobcat Lane in remote Rancho Tehama Reserve is spelled out in a series of incident reports dating back to November 2016. The Tehama County Sheriff’s Department released the reports to The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday in response to a Public Records Act request.
The dispute climaxed last week. Neal shot his wife to death on Monday and concealed her beneath their baby-blue motor home on Bobcat Lane. The next morning, armed with four weapons and clad in a military-style assault vest, Neal killed two of his neighbors, shot out the windows of the community’s elementary school in what authorities said may have been an attempt to kill a neighbor’s son, and then killed two more people. His 45-minute rampage ended when law enforcement officers shot Neal to death.
Jessie Sanders, a surviving neighbor, has said he believes the Sheriff’s Department didn’t do enough to respond to their complaints about Neal’s behavior over the past year. The department has acknowledged that Neal was on deputies’ radar screens, but they weren’t able to catch him doing anything illegal.
Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston told reporters last week that Neal was “not law enforcement friendly” and would never come to the door when deputies arrived in response to calls. His disheveled motor home, whose front facade was partially covered by a giant metal awning, was twice placed under surveillance.
Johnston, who has served as the department’s spokesman on the Neal shootings, couldn’t be reached for comment on the incident reports.
At the time of his shooting spree, Neal was out on bail after being arrested Jan. 31 for assaulting two of his neighbors, Hailey Suzanne Poland and Diana Lee Steele.
Deputies confiscated an illegal assault rifle from Neal during the arrest, and court records show he surrendered a handgun under a restraining order issued shortly after he was bailed out of jail in February.
Johnston said last week that the weapons used in the shooting rampage were homemade.
The incident reports show that neighbors continued complaining about Neal firing guns in the area in the months after the restraining order was issued.
In late August, Poland and Steele called deputies three times in one week to complain that Neal was firing gunshots, either toward their home or in an unsafe manner. In all three cases, deputies reported the area was quiet when they arrived.
Neal and his wife Barbara leveled accusations as well. On two occasions, once in August and once in October, Barbara Neal called deputies to say unidentified neighbors had yelled at them while driving past their home.
In late July, Neal called to complain that one of his neighbors, Danny Elliott, aimed a pistol at him. In their incident report, deputies said a video of the confrontation, made by Neal, showed “insufficient evidence” that Elliott pointed the weapon at Neal. It was also unclear if the weapon was a real firearm; it may have been an “airsoft rifle or paintball gun,” they said.
Elliott and Steele were the two neighbors Neal gunned down last week in the earliest moments of his killing spree.
The incident reports say Neal or his wife also told deputies twice that their neighbors were cooking meth. Two other times, they called to complain about a suspicious chemical smell wafting through the neighborhood.
The deputies’ incident reports don’t reflect any evidence of a meth operation. Cal Fire, which responded to nine complaints from Neal or his wife since February about a meth lab or suspicious fires on their neighbors’ property, has said its investigators found nothing to corroborate those allegations.
The incident reports also provide the most detailed look at Neal’s Jan. 31 arrest for assaulting Steele and Poland, her daughter-in-law.
When deputies arrived at the scene that January afternoon, Neal and his wife were sitting in their driveway and Neal was yelling that he had been attacked by “the two bitches” down the street. He added that he believed Poland and Steele had thrown a box of rat poison in his back yard to kill his dogs. When he confronted the two women, Steele struck him in the face and Poland tried to stab him, he told deputies.
In fact, it was Poland who had been stabbed, deputies said, and Steele had a bloody nose.
The two women told deputies that they were walking toward a nearby creek that day when Neal shot a firearm through a wooden fence in his backyard, nearly hitting them. Neal then jumped over a fence and began assaulting the two women. At one point Neal grabbed a cell phone that Steele was holding and handed it to his wife. When Barbara Neal returned to the scene a minute later, she said she had erased everything from the phone. Neal then stomped on the phone and tried to stab it with the knife before putting it in his back pocket.
Additional investigation revealed that the box of rat poison was empty and appeared to be old. When deputies talked to Neal’s wife, she said she saw her husband “making stabbing motions at the two ladies.”
Two months earlier, in November 2016, deputies were called to investigate an altercation between Neal and another woman, Danielle Daniel, in which Neal punched Daniel in the face and fired three shots into the air to scare others off. Neal acknowledged punching the woman but only after she hit him first, according to the report.
Deputies referred the case to the Tehama County District Attorney’s office for possible battery charges against Neal, but prosecutors declined to pursue the matter, according to the records.