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Family of Rancho Tehama shooting suspect: 'Our hearts are broken for that community and the families'

The man who authorities say went on a shooting rampage that left four dead people and several others injured in Rancho Tehama, before he was killed by officers, was identified Tuesday night by a family member.

In a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sheridan Orr of Raleigh, N.C., said the alleged gunman was her brother Kevin Janson Neal, 44.

Orr said she and others were shocked to hear that a member of their family was at the center of the shooting.

“The whole thing is tragic,” she said. “Our hearts are heavy for what that community is dealing with.

“There are certain people that do not need guns and my brother was clearly one of them,” Orr said. “He had no business owning a gun. Zero.”

Orr said that her brother had long struggled with mental illness and that he would get paranoid and speak of government conspiracies. She said he was also known to have sudden episodes of unwarranted anger.

“It’s like he had been possessed and he would often not remember or he’d feel so horrible about what he had done,” Orr said. “One day he got mad at me because of the way the washing machine sounded.”

She said the family attempted to help her brother and would even call authorities, hoping they would intervene. She said her mother kept trying to help her brother and had a closer relationship with him.

“Getting him to get straight has been my mother’s life work,” Orr said. “And this is, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for her.”

The violence began just before 8 a.m., when officers received reports of a “man down” on Bobcat Lane near Fawn Lane, according to Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston. He said the gunman killed a man and a female neighbor, with whom the suspect had an ongoing feud. The suspect had been arrested and charged with attacking the woman during a dispute in January, Johnston said.

Johnston said the feud with neighbors may have sparked Tuesday’s violence.

“I think the motive of getting even with his neighbors and when it went that far — he just went on a rampage,” Johnston speculated.

Authorities described a chaotic scene in which the gunman, driving a stolen car, appeared to pick targets at random in the rural Northern California county, at one point terrorizing an elementary school.

Orr said the brother she remembers was a sensitive man who loved animals. She said Neal moved to California a decade ago because he loved the Northern California landscape, particularly the mountains and open space.

“He fell in love with the place,” she said.

On Tuesday, she said, the family was trying to make sense of Neal’s actions.

“Make sure that you tell people this: let them know our hearts are broken for that community and the families,” she said.

ruben.vives@latimes.com

For more Southern California news, follow @latvives on Twitter.

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