SAN FRANCISCO — For months before a shooting rampage that killed five people, a violent feud brewed among the gunman and his neighbors on a dirt road in a tiny rural community in Northern California.
Tehama County sheriff’s deputies received 21 calls in the past year from Kevin Neal and other residents of three ramshackle homes on Bobcat Lane, according to documents released Tuesday to The Associated Press in response to a public records request.
Neal and his wife told police their neighbors were cooking methamphetamine. The neighbors reported violent acts by Neal: He punched a female neighbor in the face, repeatedly shot his gun and, in January, stabbed another woman neighbor who he believed was poisoning his dog.
That stabbing led to Neal’s arrest but he was quickly out on bail and, despite a restraining order and a requirement that he surrender his weapons, continued to harass his neighbors and fire his weapon, according to the documents.
Police never re-arrested Neal and on Nov. 13 he killed his wife and the next day killed two neighbors, two others and wounded eight people during a 45-minute rampage through Rancho Tehama Reserve before being fatally shot by police.
One of the wounded was a 6-year-old boy shot in the chest when Neal opened fire at an elementary school in what may have been an attempt to carry out a threat to kill the 7-year-old son of one of the neighbors who was shot to death.
Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston defended his deputies handling of the situation on Bobcat Lane, saying there never was enough evidence to arrest Neal for violating conditions of his release by firing a weapon.
“Not one person could say they saw Mr. Neal with a firearm,” Johnston said. “No one could say they (shots) absolutely came from his residence.”
Neal, 44, was out on bail after being arrested in January on suspicion of stabbing neighbor Hailey Poland and accosting her and Diana Lee Steele, 68, who was killed in the rampage.
A judge ordered Neal to stay away from the women and to surrender all of his firearms. But months after Neal’s arrest, the women called the Tehama County Sheriff’s Department several times to report Neal had been firing a gun.
In one week in August, the two women called sheriff’s deputies for help three times. In one of the instances, Poland told the dispatcher that she had a restraining order against Neal and that he was outside her house with a flashlight, firing at her house and car, according to an incident report.
Records show police seized an AR-15 rifle from Neal when he was arrested and that once out on bail he certified that he surrendered a handgun. Johnston said investigators believe last week Neal used two homemade assault rifles and two handguns registered to someone else.
Records show seven of the calls in the past year were initiated by Neal and his wife, Barbara Glisan, often reporting foul odors from what they said were neighbors cooking methamphetamine.
Neal once called 911 to report that he thought Steele’s adult son, Danny Elliott, had pointed a gun at him and showed sheriff’s deputies surveillance video that apparently captured the incident.
The deputies said in their report that the video captured Elliott moving a rifle from the front seat to backseat of his car, not pointing the gun at Neal.
Another neighbor told reporters last week that Neal had threatened out loud that he was going to kill Elliott and then go to the elementary school to kill Elliott’s son. Elliott was among those killed last week.
District Attorney Gregg Cohen said sheriff’s officials never informed his office about the repeated calls accusing Neal of firing a gun but stopped short of blaming sheriff’s officials.
“I’m not going to speculate or make a suggestion that someone did or didn’t do something,” he said.
Johnston said prosecutors had access to the sheriff’s records and could have reached out to the victims if they were concerned, but deputies didn’t have probable cause to search Neal’s house to see if he still had guns.
“I’ll say this: Were we confident that Mr. Neal surrendered all of his firearms? No. Did we have probable cause to search (for them)? No,” Johnston said.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles.