National News

Sister of California gunman: 'We're broken-hearted for those families'

Posted November 15, 2017 9:22 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— The sister of the man who shot 14 people on Tuesday in a rampage across a rural Northern California county said he called his mother in Raleigh the day before to apologize.

Sheridan Orr told WRAL News on Wednesday that her brother, Kevin Neal, was raised in Cary, but had moved to California to start a new life after being entangled in legal troubles.

Through tears, Orr mourned for the lives lost and pointed the finger at her brother's history of mental illness and a long-running feud with neighbors.

"It's horrible, so horrible," Orr said. "You never think in your wildest dreams that your brother would do this."

Orr said her brother would call her mom and talk for hours at a time. She said it seemed like her mother was always dealing with a wide range of emotions and it exhausted her.

"We as a family had been through so much with him, and stories that didn’t make sense, and we didn’t believe so much of what he said," Orr said. "I know people have been talking about that he said, 'Mom, I’m sorry,' and that it should have been a trigger, but we got those calls for years, all the time."

Neal's legal troubles ultimately followed him to the west coast where prosecutors said he stabbed a neighbor in January. A judge signed a protective order against him, which barred him from owning guns, but within a few hours, his mother bailed him out of jail.

Orr said her family now looks back on that decision with pain and heartbreak.

"When you're a mom it's hard to say no to that help, and we got his side of the story and he did try to involve the police," Orr said. "I'm not defending him or anything, but I do think getting him out on bail in hindsight was a terrible thing."

During a news conference on Wednesday, investigators in California said they discovered the body of Neal's wife hidden under the floor of his home. They believe her slaying was the start of the rampage.

"We located her dead body concealed under the floor of the residence," said Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnson. "She was an obvious victim of several gunshot wounds."

Neal shot and killed five people, 14 people in total. Two people remain in critical condition. Neal was killed in a shootout with authorities.

The shootings occurred in the rural community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, a homeowners association in a sparsely populated area of rolling oak woodlands dotted with grazing cattle about 130 miles north of Sacramento.

Police said surveillance video shows Neal unsuccessfully trying to enter a nearby elementary school after quick-thinking staff members locked the outside doors and barricaded themselves inside when they heard gunshots.

"Thank God for those heroes at the school. Thank God," Orr said.

Johnston said officials received multiple 911 calls about gunfire at an intersection of two dirt roads. Minutes later, more calls reporting shots flooded in from different locations, including the school.

"The most important thing is I just want people to know how devastated we are for those families," Orr said. "We're broken-hearted for those families, the victims and that community."

Orr said her brother had no business with guns.

"He clearly had no business with firearms. He refused to get any help," she said. "He wouldn't even go to government clinics when we were able to arrange it."

Orr said her family called over and over again to try to get her brother help.

"We called the hotline, the charter, the sheriffs, we called everybody and they said he is a grown man and you can take him for 24 to 36 hours and then he's going to be out and he's going to be more enraged," she said.

On the day of the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Orr tweeted a pledge to support gun control.

"Today, I'm sending love to #Texas," she wrote. "Tomorrow, my fight for #guncontrol commences. I won't watch another child killed without taking a stand."

After learning of the four deaths in California, Orr told WRAL News, "I wish we would have done so much more."