The gunman who fatally shot four people and wounded 10 others Tuesday in Northern California grew up in the Triangle, according to family members.
The Associated Press spoke with the mother of 44-year-old Kevin Janson Neal from Raleigh, where she still lives. The mother, who asked to be identified only as Annie, described a grim conversation she had with her son the day before Neal shot others and police shot and killed him.
“Mom, it’s all over now,” Neal told his mother, according to the AP, referring to discord between himself and his neighbors in Rancho Tehama – about 110 miles northwest of Sacramento. “I have done everything I could do, and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.”
Officials on Wednesday said they found the body of Neal’s wife hidden under the floor of their home, bringing the count to six deaths including Neal.
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Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston in a press conference said the woman was killed Monday, and that it appeared that sparked the 45-minute shooting spree Tuesday.
Neal’s mother said he sounded more desperate when talking about his neighbors in conversations they had recently, according to the AP. He was said to be upset that his neighbors were cooking meth.
“All of a sudden, now I’m on a cliff and there’s nowhere to go,” she recalled her son saying, according to the AP. “No matter where I go for help here I get nobody who will help me. All they are doing is trying to execute me here.”
The rampage began with neighbors and spread into the rural community, including an unsuccessful attempt to gain entry to an elementary school, according to multiple reports.
Neal grew up in Cary’s MacGregor Downs community as the middle child of three siblings, his sister Sheridan Orr said in an interview Wednesday.
He attended East Carolina University from 2001-2004, family members and university officials confirmed to ABC11.
Orr said all she and family members could think about was the families of the shooting victims.
“We feel so responsible,” she said.
Orr said Neal had a history of mental illness and could become violent, and that she believed he was using drugs. Since childhood, she said, Neal battled hypersensitivity to certain noises and things he smelled.
“He couldn’t let things go,” Orr said. “He would just obsess and enrage. It was this volatile thing, and you never knew when it was going to blow up.
“The reality from our vantage point was he was almost always too sensitive for this world. He never had coping skills to deal with those emotions, and as he got older I think he tried to self-medicate with drugs.”
Orr said Neal refused to be treated for mental illness as he grew older, and that it tore the family apart.
She said he left Raleigh in 2010 to be closer to nature, and so that “maybe he could find happiness and peace.” Neal would run “at break-neck speed” until he would literally collapse. Orr said she thought “he was trying to run the demons out of himself.”
Though never found guilty of anything beyond a traffic offense in North Carolina, state criminal records show Neal was charged with felony assault in Johnston County in 2006, and with several misdemeanors dating back to 1990.
In January, Neal reportedly stabbed a woman that he killed in Tuesday’s shooting and robbed another woman, according to the Record Searchlight in Redding. Neal’s mother told the AP she posted $160,000 bail for him after the stabbing, which she described as a neighbor threatening Neal with a steak knife and being cut as Neal tried to take it from her.
Brian Flint, who lives next door to Neal’s property where the shooting began, said it was “hell” being Neal’s neighbor.
“The crazy thing is that the neighbor has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines,” Flint told the Record Searchlight. “We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he’s been threatening us.”
Orr said her brother was mentally unfit to deal with a dispute with his neighbors in a peaceful way.
“We need guardrails to keep anybody who is mentally ill or with felony convictions from getting guns,” Orr said. “We must be tougher. I don’t ever want another family to go through this.”