SAN FRANCISCO — Deputies responded 21 times in the past year to calls involving a California man who had been quarreling with neighbors before he shot and killed five people last week, according to sheriff’s records released Tuesday.
The records, released to The Associated Press in response to a public records request, detail a quickly escalating feud between the gunman, Kevin Neal, and his neighbors along a dirt road in a tiny neighborhood of rural Rancho Tehama Reserve.
The yearlong dispute spiraled out of control when Neal killed his wife and two neighbors before shooting at an elementary school in what authorities say may have been an attempt to kill a neighbor’s 7-year-old son.
Neal killed two other people and wounded eight more during the 45-minute rampage before he was killed in a shootout with police.
Neal was out on bail in January after being arrested in January on suspicion of stabbing neighbor Hailey Poland and accosting her and Diana Lee Steele, who was one of the first people killed in the rampage.
The women had called the Tehama County Sheriff’s Department several times to report Neal had been firing a gun, sometimes at their homes and cars.
However, no one ever reported actually seeing Neal holding a gun or firing it at them, Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said Tuesday.
“I’ve reviewed every one of those (dispatch records) and not one person could say they saw Mr. Neal with a firearm,” Johnston said. “No one could say they absolutely came from his residence.”
Records show seven of the calls were initiated by Neal and his wife, Barbara Glisan, often reporting foul odors and neighbors possibly cooking methamphetamine.
Investigators believe Neal killed Glisan the day before the rampage and stuffed her body under the floorboards of their house. Authorities said neighbors had heard an altercation between the couple but didn’t report it until after the rampage.
In the previous incident, the women told investigators they were walking to a nearby creek near Neal’s house, when he jumped over a fence, pulled a knife and accused the women of trying to poison his dogs. Poland tried to record the altercation with her phone when Neal stabbed her, the reports said.
When deputies arrived, Neal used expletives to describe the women and told authorities that he believed they had thrown a box of rat poison into his backyard to kill his dogs.
He also alleged that Steele punched him when he confronted the women and that Poland must have stabbed herself.
Neal was arrested, an AR-15 rifle was seized from his home, and he was later released after posting $160,000 bail.
Poland filed for a restraining order a week later, writing in a plea to a judge that Neal “is very unpredictable and unstable … has anger issues.”
A judge granted the order, compelling him to stay away from his neighbor and her family, and barred him from possessing guns. Records show Neal certified that he surrendered his weapons in February, but Johnston said investigators believe he used two homemade assault rifles and two handguns registered to someone else in the rampage.
District Attorney Gregg Cohen has said sheriff’s officials never informed his office about the repeated calls accusing Neal of possibly firing a gun, which would have been a violation of the court order.
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.