Five people were killed and 10 were injured during a mass shooting in Rancho Tehama, California, on Monday and Tuesday. The gunman, Kevin Neal, visited seven locations, including an elementary school, before being killed in a shootout with police.

Two school children were injured. One of them, a 6-year-old boy, has been identified as Alejandro “Alex” Hernandez.

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His cousin, Alondra Cruz-Mendoza, told Dearly he was shot in the foot and chest, but he is now in stable condition. Hernandez was inside a locked a school classroom when he was struck by bullets.

CNN reported the shooting began in Neal’s neighborhood around 8:00 a.m. PT on Tuesday when Neal shot and killed a neighbor who had a protective order against him. He stole a vehicle and started shooting at random individuals and residences.

Minutes later, he rammed a white pickup truck into a gate outside of Rancho Tehama Elementary. Neal approached the school carrying a semi-automatic gun with a multi-round clip and began shooting.

After the initial shots were fired, school administrators put the school on lockdown, which local authorities believe saved many lives.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said in a press conference, published by NPR, that “it is monumental that that school went on lockdown.” He added:

“I really truly believe that we would have had a horrific bloodbath in that school.”

Since Neal couldn’t get inside building, he resorted to shooting at the windows. Children huddled under tables with their backpacks still on their backs, per Time.

After a few minutes, Neal left the building and started shooting at cars on the road. He shot at a police officer who forced the gunman off the road and exchanged gunfire, which killed him.

Cruz-Mendoza told Dearly that Hernandez was hiding under the table inside one of the locked classrooms when Neal was shooting through the windows and the walls. He was in the same classroom as Coy Ferreira, a dad who ran into the school when the shooting began:

“Coy was in the classroom; he was shielding the kids away from the bullets. But he said that by the time he turned around, Alex had already been shot and was bleeding out.”

Ferreira gave a first-person account to local television station KRCR after the attack. He told reporters he rushed to Hernandez’s side when he realized the young boy had been struck:

“I was walking my child to the classroom because they blew the whistle for the first bell, and when that first whistle blew, it sounded like a firecracker went off and we all stopped and were stunned. Then, like a minute later, there were three more shots fired. […]

Within a minute, we were all buckled in our classrooms and all of a sudden there were gunshots going for a good 20-25 minutes. My window was hit by a few shots and a student was injured in my classroom. He got nailed somehow, it happened all so fast.”

Cruz-Mendoza told Dearly she spoke with Ferreira after the incident to learn more about how Alex reacted after being shot:

“Coy told us that [Alex] was very strong. He didn’t cry, he just said, ‘I want to go home.'”

Hernandez’s parents were home when they received a call from a school administrator that their son had been injured during the shooting. They were shuffled from Saint Elizabeth Hospital to Mercy Medical Center Redding until they finally located their son.

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The young boy is one of six children in his family. According to Cruz-Mendoza, the family lost their home in a fire two years ago and are now seeking donations to help with medical expenses from the shooting.

Cruz-Mendoza told Dearly:

“I have been trying to help his family and am overwhelmed by the amount of donations we’ve received. I’m going to be organizing a place to collect donations to our community’s families of the victims.”

While Hernadez is recovering from his foot surgery, doctors are accessing how to remove the bullet that is lodged around his rib cage without injuring other major organs or arteries. The chest operation has not been planned yet.

Until then, Cruz-Mendoza is focused on helping the Hernandez family and others impacted from the shooting. She noted the local community has been supportive of efforts to help families recover.

Initially, the local investigators were not identifying the victims. But many of them are starting to come forward to share their stories, including:

  • 7-year-old boy who lost his father, his father’s girlfriend, and her mother in the shooting,
  • Two adult males who were visiting the Post Office when they were shot,
  • dad who was shot in his vehicle during the police pursuit, and
  • family that was shot on the way to school.

As previously reported by Dearly, Neal was out on bail for assaulting his neighbor when the shooting occurred. His had called his mother the day before the attack and said, “Mom it’s all over now.”

Investigators believe Neal shot and killed his wife Monday, which prompted the shooting spree Tuesday. Her body was found hidden beneath the floorboards inside their home.

Neal’s sister told The Washington Post she believed Neal was mentally ill and should not have been in possession of a gun. Sheriff Johnston said the gun was not registered to Neal and that it was likely illegally manufactured.

Cruz-Mendoza said she hopes to help the families who lost loved ones and plans to create a community donation page in the weeks ahead.

“Our community has come together like never before,” she said. “We are all mourning the loss of so many beautiful lives.”

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