‘Get down! Get down!’ Witnesses recount gunfire, horror at school during mass shooting

Two women embrace outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Brian Rodgers was putting out the “Espresso” banner in front of his small coffee shop when he heard the staccato of 10 shots from across the road in this small community.

Then he heard the screaming and shouts from Rancho Tehama Elementary School just down the road.

“You could hear the teachers tell the kids, ‘Get down! Get down!’ ”

It was just before 8 am. Students would have been on the playground as classes did not start until 8:15 am. Rodgers knows because until recently his own children went to school there.

He called his wife, Tiffany, who dialed 911, and as they waited for sheriff’s deputies to arrive they heard more shooting — slow, single-fire shots by the school as if someone were taking time to pick targets, a shot and the yelp of a dog, and to the south, a man at the municipal airport screaming for help, and more shooting there.


Then a silver car sped past — a window shot out, and following that, the sound of gunfire at a nearby ranch near the community dump.

Then the car appeared again, coming down that side road and into a sheriffs car. A brief chase, “and then it was a gun battle. It was crazy,” Rodgers said.

A friend of his treated two people at the dump, a husband and wife. The man, shot in the legs, was carried away to a hospital. His wife died. Rodgers knew them too, and his children know the students shot at the school.

Authorities said the gunman killed four people and injured at least 10 in a string of shootings across the rural area of Northern California, including at the schools. Sheriff’s deputies later killed the gunman, police said.

Tiffany Rodgers struggled to balance the horror of the morning with her conviction of what locals call “the ranch.”

“It wasn’t the guns. It’s not the mental stuff. It just happens,” she said.

Her children were due home soon on the school bus from Redding and would find the rural town occupied by FBI agents and law officers in bulletproof vests, and satellite TV trucks. What would she say to them? It depends on what they ask, she said.

“So I’ll be real, like I am any other time.”

Brian Rodgers said the shooter had a long-running feud with the couple who were killed first. He allegedly stole a truck, then the silver vehicle, before driving the three- to five-mile distance to the school.

Tiffany Rodgers, 33, said the community of 1,200 is close knit, coming together to hold a Christmas parade — decorations not required. She and her husband have lived there seven years, raising four children on a farmstead and running one of the few businesses in the community, a small coffee and sandwich shop behind a thrift store.

Cellphone service is largely nonexistent, they said.

Residents rely on a Facebook group page to share news, make requests to borrow ingredients when cooking, and post what they hear on the police scanner.

While her husband was outside their coffee shop monitoring the path of gunfire beyond the trees across the road, she went to that Facebook page and saw the active-shooter warnings.

“I just want to make sure this town doesn’t get a bad name. Such a beautiful, remote community and this happens everywhere,” she said. “And I’m really hoping they don’t go for the gun violence portion of this, either, because it’s not a gun. I own guns. I take my kids shooting. It’s the person. and sometimes just bad things happen.”


3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional quotes from the Rogers.