- Police confirm at least 14 fatalities; 17 others injured.
- Shooting occurred at center for people with developmental disabilities.
- Two suspects are dead; third suspect seen running has been detained.
Police say two suspects are dead after a shooting at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, left at least 14 people dead and 17 more injured.
The two dead suspects were described as a male and a female, both carrying assault-style weapons, as well as handguns, and “dressed in dark tactical gear.” San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said a tip led police to a home in the nearby city of Redlands, where officers saw the suspects leave in the dark SUV. They pursued and fired upon the SUV, killing both suspects.
Burguan confirmed that a third suspect was seen running away from the SUV and was in custody, though it’s unclear whether that suspect had a connection to the shooting.
One officer sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The shooting took place Wednesday morning at Inland Regional Center, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities. According to the center’s Facebook page, it has nearly 670 staff members and provides services to more than 30,200 people.
Masked gunmen stormed a conference room at the center where an awards ceremony for county employees was taking place, according to KTLA.
Up to three suspects “came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
He confirmed later that there was a device left at the center that may be explosive, and bomb crews were still working to neutralize it.
At about 1 p.m., more than two dozen staff members, some of whom were in wheelchairs, were being escorted out of the building and onto school buses. Law enforcement vehicles from a number of agencies surrounded the building.
Five patients were being treated at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and one was treated and discharged, according to officials. A spokeswoman at Loma Linda University hospital spokeswoman said they received five patients, all adults. Two are in critical condition, two are fair, and one is being assessed, she said. St. Bernadine Medical Center and Community Hospital of San Bernardino each received two patients. A spokeswoman for Dignity Health, which owns both hospitals, declined to comment on their conditions.
The shooting is the deadliest in the U.S. since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, which left 28 dead.
All San Bernardino City Unified School District schools were on a precautionary lockdown until the school day ended, and all after-school activities have been canceled, a spokesman for the district told The Huffington Post. He added that all schools are scheduled to dismiss students at the normal time except Dominguez Elementary School, which will remain on lockdown “due to its proximity to police activity.”
San Bernardino is a city of more than 215,000 people about an hour east of Los Angeles.
Staffers of the Inland Regional Center being evacuated told HuffPost that the shooters hid their faces. “The shooters were wearing masks and the shooting kept going on and on,” one worker said. Another employee said through tears, “We’re as OK as we can be.”
Frank Montes said his 27-year-old niece, an employee of the facility, had been outside during her break when she heard gunfire. “She said there were three shooters wearing body armor and machine guns,” he told HuffPost.
Marybeth Feild, who works at the center, said the incident took place “in the conference area” that an outside group was renting on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
She said people served by the center also would have been in the building.
Outside a community center set up to reunite families with victims, Sherry Esquerra stood in tears with her daughter, Angel. She said she’s still trying to find her other daughter and her son-in-law, both of whom work at the facility.
“We left messages, texts, everything. Haven’t heard from her,” Esquerra told HuffPost. “I’m petrified. I’m worried and scared. I just want them to find out something. I know if she could text me or call me she would, and that makes me so much more worried.”
“Why would gunmen come in there and shoot them?” she added. “It doesn’t make sense. These were all very disabled kids in there, I don’t understand why someone would start shooting in there. Sherry was just at my house for four days over Thanksgiving, she helped me decorate he tree. When I call her now it just goes to voicemail.”
Witness Jose Serrano told The Huffington Post he had stopped by Sepulveda Building Materials to drop off supplies when police swarmed the nearby Inland Regional Center. He and approximately 20 others were seeking safety inside the former building, he said.
“Oh my God, there’s gotta be at least 100 cop cars,” Serrano, 44, told HuffPost. “Police, SWAT team, even probation officers.”
Serrano said he wasn’t scared because “there’s tons of police all around,” but said through police barricades he could see victims leaving Inland.
“I’ve seen people on gurneys getting into the ambulances,” he said.
Terry Pettit said his daughter Holly was trapped inside the building during the shooting. Hetold KABC-TV that he received the following text messages from her: “Shooting at my work. People shot. In the office waiting for cops. Pray for us. I am locked in an office.”
“She was barricaded in her office under her desk and got evacuated,” her sister-in-law Ashley Pettit told HuffPost. She added that Holly was not injured during the shooting but was shaken up.
“When I first heard about the shooting I ran. I really didn’t believe it was real at first, even when there were cops everywhere,” David Johnson, who lives near the scene of the shooting, said. “The city of San Bernardino has a terrible crime rate and murder rate already. I’m from here, from the ghetto and it’s hard. The people here are saddened by this and they are afraid. I don’t know why these fools would use this place to do that.”
Elizabeth Mendieta, 60, works at Inland Lighthouse Empire, a school for the blind just down the street from reports of the shooting. She said she had 50 students with her, most elderly, all blind, and all worried.
“We have the students inside and we’re safe in here, thank God,” Mendieta said. “They’re concerned, they’re worried, but their families know they’re here. They’re calling to make sure they’re OK.”
Mendieta said she was holding up, but hoped the situation would end soon. “We don’t know what’s happening inside the building, it’s keeping us on our toes. I’m just wondering when this is going to be over.”
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation by Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and has asked to receive updates as the situation develops, according to a White House official.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has also been briefed and is closely monitoring the situation as it unfolds, his office said.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they’re sending agents to help the San Bernardino police.
The shooting was two blocks from a Planned Parenthood facility, but Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for the company, said it “appears totally unrelated.”
“Like all buildings in the area, our staff is on alert and waiting for more information,” he said. “We have no reason to believe this has any connection to Planned Parenthood.”
A shooter targeted a Planned Parenthood clinic last week in Colorado, killing three.
source: huffingtonpost.com by Matt Ferner,