Elementary school's 'heroic' staff 'defeated evil' with 'flawless' lockdown, superintendent says

PHOTO: The Rancho Tehama Elementary School is partially boarded up in Rancho Tehama, Calif., after the school was attacked by a gunman, Nov. 15, 2017.PlayMichael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via Polaris
WATCH Gunman fired 30 rounds at California elementary school

A gunman's shooting rampage at a California elementary school could have been "catastrophic" -- but all students escaped alive thanks to the "flawless" lockdown executed by the "heroic" school staff, the school district's superintendent said at a news conference.

The Rancho Tehama Elementary School about 130 miles north of Sacramento was among several locations targeted in a gunman's seemingly random rampage that left five people dead.

PHOTO: A Highway Patrol officer speaks to a woman while blocking off a road to traffic after a shooting on Nov. 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, Calif.Elijah Nouvelage/AFP/Getty Images
A Highway Patrol officer speaks to a woman while blocking off a road to traffic after a shooting on Nov. 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, Calif.

No children were killed in the Tuesday shootings, but some children were wounded, including glass injuries and one student who was shot at the school, police said. The superintendent said today the student who was shot is in fair condition, though authorities said earlier today he was in critical condition.

Corning Union Elementary School District Superintendent Richard Fitzpatrick said today he is "brokenhearted" over the boy who was shot, "but truly grateful we're not suffering any higher penalty."

It was around 8 a.m. PT -- which is when school starts -- that a few shots were heard outside of the school campus Tuesday, Fitzpatrick said. He said that was likely the shooter engaging a target on the way to the school.

Immediately, the school staff went into lockdown, he said: Staff and custodians went to the quad where children were playing before school and immediately took them to classrooms, while the secretary went to the front where parents were dropping their kids off and brought everyone inside.

Fitzpatrick said the school secretary recognizing the threat so quickly made all the difference.

The shooter rammed the school gate and broke through the fence, and he jumped out of the vehicle with an AR-type weapon, Fitzpatrick said.

PHOTO: Randy Morehouse, the maintenance and operations supervisor for the Corning Elementary School District, walks past the gate that gunman Kevin Janson Neal crashed through during his shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Nov. 15, 2017.Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Randy Morehouse, the maintenance and operations supervisor for the Corning Elementary School District, walks past the gate that gunman Kevin Janson Neal crashed through during his shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Nov. 15, 2017.

At that time, a custodian who was helping shepherd children inside heard the crash and poked his head around the building, and spotted the shooter, Fitzpatrick said. The custodian allegedly drew the shooter's attention, and several shots were fired toward the custodian, Fitzpatrick said.

At this point, the school was already completely locked down and children were in classrooms when the shooter allegedly ran around the corner to the quad, shooting at windows, walls and doors, Fitzpatrick said.

PHOTO: One of the bullet holes is seen in an exterior wall at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Nov. 15, 2017, from a shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif.Rich Pedroncelli/AP
One of the bullet holes is seen in an exterior wall at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Nov. 15, 2017, from a shooting rampage at Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif.

The superintendent said video indicates the gunman tried to access some doors but couldn't, and allegedly went back to the quad and fired more, before going to a field and firing out into the neighborhood.

Fitzpatrick praised the "heroic efforts of our school staff," noting that their "love and kindness and selflessness" and their ability to "professionally do what they did defeated evil."

"The kindergarten teacher and her aide comforted the boy who was shot in the classroom and rendered first aid, meanwhile keeping students calm and contained," he said.

The superintendent called the lockdown "amazingly efficient" and said "one student injured on campus and nothing worse" is because of the "heroic" actions of all staff members. Fitzpatrick added that he believes the child who was shot was hit by a bullet through the wall.

PHOTO: A woman wearing a white protective suit is seen on the Rancho Tehama Elementary school grounds after a shooting on Nov. 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, Calif.Elijah Nouvelage/AFP/Getty Images
A woman wearing a white protective suit is seen on the Rancho Tehama Elementary school grounds after a shooting on Nov. 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, Calif.

Authorities today also praised the elementary school for its lockdown procedures, saying they could have faced a horrific bloodbath had they not taken safety measures.

Fitzpatrick said the school will reopen.

The gunman -- who was killed by police after the shooting rampage -- had already opened fire on others, including on roadways, in the rural area on Tuesday when he turned his sights to the Rancho Tehama Elementary School.

Authorities said the gunman's wife -- whose killing appeared to have kicked off the spree -- was found dead under the floor at their home Tuesday night. Authorities said they suspect she was killed Monday evening.

Comments