California gunman tried to access classrooms to kill children, police say

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that two children were among the four dead. Two children were wounded, but are being treated for their injuries.

The gunman who killed four people and wounded at least 10 others, including two children, in Northern California Tuesday tried to access rooms at an elementary school to shoot more kids, police said at a press conference Tuesday night.

The shooter was killed by police after he opened fire at multiple “random” locations near Rancho Tehama Elementary School in Corning early Tuesday.

Crime tape blocks off Rancho Tehama Road leading into the Rancho Tehama subdivision south of Red Bluff, Calif., following a fatal shooting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Jim Schultz/The Record Searchlight via AP)

Crime tape blocks off Rancho Tehama Road leading into the Rancho Tehama subdivision south of Red Bluff, Calif., following a fatal shooting on Tuesday.  (Jim Schultz/The Record Searchlight via AP)

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said that one of the victims was a woman the gunman was previously accused of stabbing in January.

School officials heard shots being fired about a quarter-mile away and the school went into lockdown mode, Johnston said. He added the incident “could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the quick thinking” of the school’s staff, who put the school in immediate lockdown mode without instruction from police. 

Johnston noted it was “monumental” that school workers took action when they did, because he believes they saved the lives of countless children.

More than 100 police officers are investigating seven different shooting scenes in the area. Johnston said the shooter was “randomly picking targets.”

“This guy was bent on driving by residences and arbitrarily shooting at them,” Johnston said of the unidentified gunman. “This guy was on a killing rampage, he was driving up and down the street shooting at passerbys [sic], and uninvolved residences.”

Brian Flint told Record Searchlight newspaper after the incident that his neighbor was the gunman in Tuesday’s deadly shooting.

“The crazy thing is that the neighbor has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines,” Flint said. “We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he’s been threatening us.” He added the suspect stole his truck.

Investigators have recovered a semi-automatic rifle, in addition to two handguns.

Witnesses at the school described multiple rounds being fired. Coy Ferreira told KRCR he was dropping off his daughter at the school just before 8 a.m. when he heard a firecracker-like sound. The school’s secretary then ran out and told children to go inside because there was an active shooter. Ferreira said he ended up in a classroom with 14 students and witnessed a boy being struck by bullets.

Law enforcement officers are seen at an elementary school in the community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, where a gunman opened fire Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Corning, Calif. A gunman choosing targets at random opened fire in the rural Northern California town Tuesday, killing several people at several sites and wounding others at the elementary school before police shot him dead, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

 (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Jeanine Quist, an administrative assistant with the Corning Union Elementary School District, said no one was killed at the school but a “number” of students were shot and wounded.

The Tehama County Sheriff’s Office has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting, Johnston told KRCR. He added the FBI volunteered to investigate, as well.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement that he and his wife are “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 Mike Pence tweeted his condolences for the lives lost in the shooting, and said “We commend the effort of courageous law enforcement. We’ll continue to monitor the situation & provide federal support, as we pray for comfort & healing for all impacted.”

Fox News’ Adam Housley and Shira Bush and The Associated Press contributed to this report.