Neal’s mother spoke by phone from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives and where Neal grew up before moving to California, where he was working as a pot farmer and had recently married his longtime girlfriend. He was killed by police as he tried to flee after shooting his way through Rancho Tehama, about 130 miles north of Sacramento.
The mother asked that only her first name, Anne, be used because she feared for her safety due to her son’s feuding with neighbors he claimed were involved with gangs. She was unaware of her son’s role in the rampage until contacted by AP.
In her last few talks with her son, Neal’s mother said he sounded desperate and despairing over his relationship with his neighbors, who he said were cooking meth and creating fumes that were harming his nine dogs.
“All of a sudden, now I’m on a cliff and there’s nowhere to go,” she said her son told him Monday. “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 first two people Neal shot and killed were neighbors. He stole a truck and sought seemingly random victims elsewhere in town, including an elementary school where children were locked in their classrooms. None was killed, though at least one boy was wounded.
Last January Neal was charged with stabbing one of the neighbors, and Anne said she posted the $160,000 bail for him and had spent over $10,000 on lawyer’s fees.
Police have declined to identify the shooter until his relatives are notified of his death, but confirmed the same man was charged with the January assault. The district attorney, Gregg Cohen, told the Sacramento Bee the man in that case was Kevin Neal.
Neal’s mother said her son told her the neighbor was only slightly cut after Neal grabbed a steak knife she was using to threaten him.
Police had also visited Neal’s house a day before the shootings on a domestic violence call, authorities said, but gave no details.
The head of the area’s homeowners association said neighbors had been complaining about Neal firing guns excessively on the property, which sits at the end of a dirt road.
Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, said she had not talked to her brother in months, but that he had struggled with mental illness and at times had a violent temper. She said she believed he was addicted to drugs.
“This is a person who has no business with firearms whatsoever,” Orr said. “Our deep, deep sympathy for the victims and it sounds trite but our hearts are breaking for them.”
Orr added, “If we can do any good to make people realize there must be some gates on people like this from getting guns,” she paused. “This is the same story we’re hearing more and more.”
A family member spoke to WTVD and said that Neal moved to California about 12 years ago, and was raised in Cary, though his mother lives in Raleigh. The family member said Neal attended East Carolina University, which the school confirmed to WTVD.
ECU said Neal, 44, attended classes at the university from August 2001 to May 2004. According to the university, he did not get a degree, and never declared a major.