The shooting was reported shortly before noon at John Muir Preschool at 24823 Soto Road, according to police.
Arriving officers discovered shattered windows in a classroom facing a street. Although 15 preschoolers, two parents and a teacher had been in the middle of a reading program in the room, pellets from multiple shotgun rounds missed everyone in the class, police said.
Investigators believe the classroom and school were not the intended targets. They concluded that the suspect may have been firing at a 29-year-old man who had parked his vehicle in front of the school and was walking his 5-year-old daughter toward her classroom.
The shots were fired by the suspect, who stood on the sidewalk several feet away from the man and child.
After firing the shots, the suspect ran to a blue Jeep Cherokee that was occupied by another man. The Jeep sped away from the school, but officers found the vehicle several minutes later where it had been abandoned a few blocks away from the school on Culp Avenue.
The Jeep had previously been reported stolen to the San Leandro Police Department on Jan. 14, police said.
The suspect was described as a Hispanic man in his late teens to early 20s who was about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed between 160 and 170 pounds. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants, according to police.
No description was available for the other occupant of the Jeep.
A motive for the shooting has not yet been determined by police, who did not know if the incident was precipitated by a traffic altercation, if the man was targeted for some reason, or if it was a case of mistaken identity.
Anyone with information about the case should immediately contact the Hayward Police Department Criminal Investigations Bureau at (510) 293-7034.