More Troubling Details Emerge from Shootings in California That Killed 14, Wounded 17
The worst mass shooting since 2012’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting unfolded in the working-class city of San Bernardino, Calif. where 14 people attending a county employee Christmas party at a building serving the region’s disabled were gunned down by two assailants dressed in black and carrying assault rifles.
Later reports early Thursday revealed the shooters wore GoPro cameras to film the massacre. It is not clear what the killers did with their recorded footage, but according to police accounts the two returned home after the shooting and fled when police arrived.
The suspected killers were identified late Wednesday night by police as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, who for the past five years was a county environmental health employee and was born in the U.S., and Tashfeen Malik, 27. Both were killed Wednesday afternoon in a shootout with 21 officers on a city street. The two are married and have a six-month-old baby, according to press reports.
Earlier in the day, there were reports that three shooters gained entry to the Inland Regional Center, a non-profit serving people with disabilities, and used assault rifles to slaughter the party’s attendees. Seventeen people were injured and taken to hospitals.
At a late evening press conference, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said police were "reasonably confident that we have two shooters, two dead suspects."
Burguan and other law enforcement officials said they were looking at several motives, but would not confirm any theory other than saying there had been an argument before the shooting began, and that Farook had attended the same county party a year ago.
"There had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” the police chief said, adding that explosive experts had retrieved and destroyed three devices that appeared to be pipe bombs found at Inland Regional Center.
The shooting and police chase paralyzed the working-class city of 200,000 that lies 60 miles east of Los Angeles. As the afternoon and evening unfolded, it was clear that local, state and federal police were investigating tips that pointed to Farook as a prime suspect.
For several hours, it was unclear where the shooters had escaped to. They reportedly left the Inland Regional Center in a dark SUV. Police spotted the vehicle leaving a house in the nearby city of Redlands and followed it back to a San Bernardino neighborhood where a gun battle erupted killing the two suspects.
In the meantime, it was not clear if there was a third suspect. A person seen by police fleeing the shootout scene was taken into custody. The surrounding neighborhood was locked down as SWAT teams went from house to house and carefully combed for explosive devices, following reports that the shooters had pipe bombs.
At the same time, a search warrant was being served by a SWAT team in a condominium complex in the nearby town of Redlands that Farook had listed as his address. The building had been evacuated, local media reported.
One police officer was injured in the gunfight with the suspects, Burguan said, though his injuries are not life-threatening. He said the dead shooters were found with two military-style assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns in their SUV.
Burguan said police and emergency responders arrived at the shooting four minutes after the first 911 call, and most victims were being treated by paramedics within 15 minutes, which he said was "fairly fast."
Reports from at least one trauma center said two shooting victims were in critical but stable condition. Another local hospital said other victims were in critical condition and most of those hospitalized there were women.
In his late evening press conference, Burguan said he did not know the identities or conditions of the 17 wounded victims.
The San Bernardino incident was the second mass shooting Wednesday—four people were killed in a Savannah, Georgia incident—and the 355th such event in 2015. A mass shooting is defined by police as involving four or more victims.
The San Bernardino shooting occurred at about 11am PST, when the shooters burst into a conference room being used by the county health department for its annual Christmas party. Witnesses said they were dressed in black and wore ski masks. After the shooters escaped, a massive manhunt began that unfolded for hours and was televised live. Entire city neighborhoods were told to shelter in place and dozens of public schools were locked down until late afternoon.
Local police were working with the FBI and other authorities to investigate the shooting, motives and possible accomplices. The FBI officer in charge was repeatedly asked if this was a terrorist attack, which he would neither confirm nor deny.
“They were dressed and equipped,” Burguan said earlier in the day. “Dressed in dark tactical gear; that’s the best way I can put it.”
On Wednesday evening, the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on Islamic Relations held a press conference expressing sorrow, sadness and solidaity with the victims and denouncing the violence. "Please do not condemn Islam," Islamic Council chair Muzammil Siddiqi told reporters.
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