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Rancho Tehama Association hears from residents, officials

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RANCHO TEHAMA, Calif. - A group of Rancho Tehama residents, still showing the raw emotions felt in the wake of a deadly shooting rampage, spoke and listened at the community's association meeting Tuesday night.

One week earlier, Kevin Janson Neal went on a deadly shooting spree that left five dead in this rural Tehama County town, overseen by a community association. Neal was then killed by sheriffs.

The Rancho Tehama Board of Directors held their regular meeting on Tuesday night at the Rancho Tehama Recreation Hall. About 30 were in attendance.

The meeting included an open forum where several community members spoke about their emotions in the aftermath of the unprecedented violence in this town. One resident admitted he was considering getting a legal concealed weapons permit so that his family might feel safer. He offered to help others get the information they might need if they wished to do the same.

At least two of those who spoke were vehement in their anger over what they characterized as dismissive behavior from the Tehama County Sheriff's Office and other public officials.

Betsy Sanders, who identified as a ten-year resident of Rancho Tehama, a Navy veteran and a lawyer, was animated in her anger.

"My neighbors have been killed, and the reason they have been killed is because (Supervisor) Bob Williams and the sheriffs don't give a hoot about us," said Sanders, who also said she suffers from PTSD. "We call and we call and we call about shootings up and down the road. Nobody comes."

Some expressed gratitude over the efforts to improve the community relationship with the county in the wake of the deadly events.

"You know it's been traumatic for all of us," said Richard Gutierrez, treasurer for the association's board of directors. "We all live here. But we're strong, and we're moving forward."

In contrast to Sanders' outspoken criticism of the sheriff's office and District 4 Tehama County Supervisor Williams, Gutierrez sees progress already being made with improving dialogue between the association and the county.

"People begin to heal, and then there can be good communication, with the board and with the sheriff," said Gregg Cohen, Tehama County District Attorney, who was also in attendance. "I'll make my department available for that to see how the county as a whole can do better for this community."

Williams said he has already made progress towards improving Rancho Tehama's telephone coverage.

"The shooting happened when most of those folks were taking their kids to school or they were on their way to work," Williams said. "The only phone system they have out here is Ducor and it's a landline. And so when you're in your car, you're not near a landline. So I've been working with AT&T representatives to see how we can get some cellphone service, better cellphone service."

The media was not allowed inside the meeting room, but officials and residents did speak to the press outside afterwards.

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