The northern California gunman who authorities say killed his wife before carrying out a deadly shooting spree this week reportedly had a history of domestic violence calls to his home and had previously attacked two female neighbors.
Kevin Neal, 43, was out on bail and prohibited from possessing firearms when authorities say he armed himself with two illegally manufactured semiautomatic rifles on Tuesday and proceeded to hunt down neighbors, elementary school children and passersby in Tehama County.
By the time the assault was over, with Neal being killed by police, five people were dead ― including his wife, whose body was found hidden beneath their home’s floor ― and 10 others injured, including children.
“I don’t know what his motive was,” Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston, who said his department had received domestic violence calls to Neal’s home, told The Sacramento Bee. “I think he had a desire to kill as many people as he could, and whether or not he had a desire to die at the hands of police I don’t know.”
Authorities visited Neal’s home only a day before Tuesday’s shootings on one such domestic violence call, CBS News reported, citing local authorities. No details on that call were released and the sheriff’s department did not immediately return a request for comment from HuffPost.
Though little may be known about his motive, Neal’s history of domestic abuse falls in line with other previous mass shooters, who have been found having histories of physically harming their partners, stalking them, making death threats and having access to firearms.
A recent HuffPost investigation found that 59 percent of the mass shootings that took place between 2015 and early November 2017 were carried out by someone who killed an intimate partner or family member during the massacre or had a history of domestic violence.
Like those individuals, Neal was not a stranger to local authorities because of his violent behavior.
One of two women fatally shot by Neal in his neighborhood on Tuesday had taken out a protective order against him in February, Johnston told CNN.
Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen, in a video news release Wednesday, said that order prohibited Neal from owning or possessing a firearm. It was issued after a January incident in which Neal allegedly shot at two women, stabbed one of them and took them hostage.
“He just decided to come out and he shot at us and didn’t hit us,” Hailey Suzanne Poland, who recalled being stabbed by Neal while walking in her neighborhood with Diana Lee Steel, told The Sacramento Bee. “But he wouldn’t let us go, he held us captive right in front of his house, and he proceeded to go after [Steel]. Me protecting her, he stabbed me in the process, almost went through the pancreas.”
Poland said Neal was bailed out of jail within hours of his arrest for the incident.
Cohen confirmed in his video release that Neal was being prosecuted for that incident at the time of this week’s shooting, adding that everyone is entitled to bail in the U.S. unless they are arrested for a capital crime.
This is a person who has no business with firearms whatsoever.
Neal had had multiple run-ins with the law leading to several arrests but no convictions, Cohen said. Those arrests, dating back to 1989, were for disorderly conduct, obstructing or delaying a peace officer, possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana, assault with a deadly weapon with serious injury, and a hit-and-run.
He was legally allowed to own and possess firearms up until the protective order was filed against him, Cohen said.
Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, told The Associated Press that her brother had a history of mental illness and may have been a drug addict. She said he shouldn’t have had a gun.
“This is a person who has no business with firearms whatsoever,” she told the AP. “If we can do any good [it would be] to make people realize there must be some gates on people like this from getting guns.”