California shooting: Four dead after gunman opens fire at school

Hatty Collier, Tom Powell, Sean Morrison
California: Crime tape blocks off the scene following the fatal shooting: AP

Four people have been killed after a gunman opened fire at various locations, including a school, in northern California.

The shooter was also shot and killed by police after carrying out his attacks in the rural community of Rancho Tehama, about 200km from Sacramento.

Officials believe the shooting began as a "domestic violence" incident at 8am before moving to the nearby Rancho Tehama Elementary School.

Two hospitals said they were treating seven gunshot victims, including at least three children.

Shooting: Traffic backs up nearby as police swoop on the scene (AP)

At least one child was wounded at the school. Another child was shot while driving with a woman, who also was wounded, Tehama County assistant sheriff Phil Johnston said.

One man, Salvador Tello, said the gunman fired at a truck in front of him as he was dropping off his three children.

Mr Tello said he was close to the school when bullets made "big holes" in the truck in front of him.

He said he forced his children to duck down and slammed his truck into reverse and headed to the children's grandmother's house.

At least one child was wounded at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School (AP)

Details were still sketchy hours after the shootings, and authorities did not have a firm count of the wounded due to the number of places the gunman attacked, Mr Johnston said.

Authorities recovered a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns.

The rural area is described on its website as a "quiet private country community" where "the people are friendly and the pace is relaxed".

Brian Flint told the Record Searchlight newspaper in the city of Redding that his neighbour, who he knows only as Kevin, was the gunman, and that his roommate was among the victims. He said the gunman also stole his truck.

"The crazy thing is that the neighbour has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines," Mr Flint said.

"We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he's been threatening us."