At least four people were killed Tuesday morning in Northern California when a gunman shooting at random struck at multiple locations, targeting an elementary school and a woman driving her children to school, authorities said.
This latest burst of gunfire to terrorize a community — which followed deadly mass shootings in Nevada and Texas — unfolded without an immediate explanation or motive, as a gunman spewed bullets across what police described as “a very widespread area.”
Ten people were injured and taken to area hospitals, including at least two children, one of whom was at the elementary school, police said. No children were among those killed, which ended when law enforcement officers, responding to the carnage, fatally shot the gunman.
The bloodshed began shortly before 8 a.m., Phil Johnston, an assistant sheriff in Tehama County, told reporters. Police received “multiple 911 calls of multiple different shooting sites, including the elementary school” in Rancho Tehama Reserve, a small area about 135 miles north of Sacramento, he said.
“It was very clear early on that we had a subject that was randomly picking targets,” Johnston said.
Johnston said police did not immediately know what may have motivated the attack, which stretched across at least seven locations. Officials believe they have identified the shooter, though they were working to confirm the man’s name, Johnston said.
The gunman, who was previously known to law enforcement, did not appear to have any “real connection to any of the victims,” Johnston said.
While details about what led up to the gunfire remained unclear, Johnston said authorities were told by neighbors that “there was a domestic violence incident” involving the suspected attacker. He later said police were aware of reports that the domestic violence incident happened a day before the shootings.
Johnston also said there appeared to be an ongoing neighborhood dispute involving the attacker, who had a residence in Rancho Tehama.
After the first gunfire on Tuesday morning, Johnston said, the attacker “took a vehicle and went on a shooting rampage throughout the community.”
At least two children were injured in the attack, Johnston said. One boy was shot and wounded when the gunman, who was outside the school, began firing rounds into the building. Another boy was shot while riding in a truck “that was driving down the road along with a female adult” who was taking her children to school, Johnston said. Both children were among those taken to area hospitals.
Johnston said victims were attacked with no clear explanation. The woman driving her children to school had passed the gunman’s car when “he opened fire on them without provocation or warning,” Johnston said. She suffered “very life-threatening wounds,” while her child in the back seat did not suffer life-threatening wounds, he said.
“It’s a very sad day for us here in Tehama County,” Johnston said.
The ages of those killed and wounded were not immediately released by authorities.
Enloe Medical Center said it had five patients from the shooting, three of whom were treated and released Tuesday. Two remained hospitalized by the afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman. While the victims’ ages were not immediately available, the hospital had said earlier in the day it was treating at least three children.
After the shooting, Johnston said police recovered a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns believed to be used by the shooter. The FBI said it was sending teams to help local authorities respond to the shooting, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was dispatching special agents to the scene.
The shooting rampage in California comes as many are still struggling with the psychic and physical wounds left behind by recent mass shootings at other seemingly safe places across the country.
Last week in Texas, a gunman attacked a small church outside San Antonio during Sunday morning services, killing 26 people and injuring 20 others. A month earlier, a gunman in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel suite opened fire at a country-music festival far below, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
This latest public attack happened in Rancho Tehama Reserve, a rural subdivision described on its website as “a quiet private country community in the heart of Tehama County, California.”
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said in a statement that he and his wife were “saddened to hear about today’s violence in Tehama County, which shockingly involved schoolchildren. We offer our condolences to the families who lost loved ones and unite with all Californians in grief.” Vice President Pence posted in a message on Twitter that the White House would monitor the situation, provide federal support and “pray for comfort & healing for all impacted.
Coy Ferreira told KRCR-TV that he was dropping his daughter off at her kindergarten class just before 8 a.m. when he heard what sounded like a firecracker. Someone yelled for children to get in classrooms because someone was shooting, he said, and he heard three more shots.
“Within a minute, we were all buckled in our classrooms and all of a sudden there were gunshots going for a good 20 to 25 minutes. My window was hit by a few shots, and a student was injured in my classroom. He got nailed somehow, it happened all so fast,” Ferreira told KRCR. He said a series of shots came through the windows, hitting one student in the foot and the chest, but the child was alert and talking.
After the gunfire, worried parents were trying to get to their children at the school, according to a reporter with Action News Now, a local news operation.
A school official in California confirmed on Tuesday that there were injuries following the shooting but did not immediately provide further information.
“There was an active shooter out there earlier this morning,” said Jeanine Quist, an administrative assistant with the Corning Union Elementary School District. “There were some confirmed injuries.
“We are cooperating with local law enforcement — we don’t have any confirmed information at this point,” but a statement from the superintendent will be forthcoming when more is known, she said.
Quist said about 10:30 a.m. local time that parents were able to get to the school to see their children.
Jennifer Jenkins and Julie Tate contributed to this report, which has been updated with new information.