SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – At least 14 people were killed and two suspects were dead Wednesday after up to three people on a mission that authorities described as “possibly terrorism” barged into a holiday party in a California conference room and unleashed a bloodbath.
The shooter or shooters fled in a black SUV after the shooting about at 11 a.m. (2 p.m. ET), police said. A bomb squad was still examining a suspicious device believed to be an explosive at the scene late Wednesday afternoon, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.
About 4½ hours after the shootings, police checking a lead in the nearby town of Redlands began chasing a car believed to be related to the incident, Burguan said. The chase led back to San Bernardino, where two people described as suspects — a man and a woman — were killed, he said.
Investigators were also carefully reviewing material at that scene as a possible explosive or explosives, Burguan said.
A third person who was seen running away from the scene was in custody, Burguan said. Investigators were also carefully reviewing material at that scene as a possible explosive or explosives, Burguan said.
The dead suspects were dressed in “assault-style clothing” and were carrying assault-style weapons and handguns, Burguan said. He said an officer was shot in the confrontation but didn’t suffer a life-threatening wound and was expected to be OK.
Multiple sources from multiple agencies identified one of the three attackers at the resource center to NBC News as Syed Farook. No other information was available, but a knowledgeable source said another member of the trio is believed to be Farook’s brother.
The identity of the woman was unknown.
David Bowdich, the FBI’s assistant director in Los Angeles, said the incident was being regarded as “possibly terrorism.” He wouldn’t elaborate.
The shooting broke out at the Inland Regional Center, which serves more than 31,000 people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino County and neighboring Riverside County, according to the center’s “About” page on its website. It says it’s the largest of California’s regional centers, and is “a nonprofit, private community-based agency that is proud to help obtain services and support for our constituents.”
IRC’s website was down Wednesday, presumably overcome with traffic.
The facility is run by the state, and offers specific programs designed for four different age groups: 0 to 3-years-old; 3 to 15; 16 to 22; 23 to 59; and adults over 60.
Firefighters set up a triage area near the Inland Regional Center on the South Waterman Avenue, where they were treating the wounded on the street.
Some were transported in the back of pickup trucks.
A KNBC reporter said he saw at least “three bodies on the ground.”
Meanwhile, dozens of SWAT team officers were massing outside the facility while police were evacuating nearby buildings and marching the occupants out of harm’s way to a nearby golf course.
The FBI and federal ATF agents were also heading to the scene, officials said. So was the bomb squad.
President Obama was briefed by Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and asked to be updated as the situation develops, a White House official said.
“Absolutely heartbreaking,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein tweeted.
In addition to the 14 dead:
- The shooting erupted during a holiday party in a conference room.
- At least 10 of 17 wounded are in critical condition.
- Police shot two suspects after a high-speed chase in a shootout hours later.
- One of the suspects was killed.
- A police officer was wounded in the shootout.
Seventeen other people were wounded when the shooting started inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, about 55 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, police said.
Authorities said 10 of the 17 injured were taken to hospitals in critical condition. Fire Chief Tom Hannemann said three people were in serious condition.
The first shots were fired at the center around 11 a.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), said Lt. Richard Lawhead of the San Bernardino police.
“There’s plenty of police activity,” Jim, a sales person at the nearby Structural Material Company who did not give his full name, told NBC News. “A lady ran into our bathroom and said somebody was shooting there.” He said he didn’t hear any shots. “I’ve never seen so much police activity.”
Jim said police told him and the staff — about 10 to 12 people — to stay inside the building. However, the woman who ran into the building has since left, he said.
His company is about 200-300 yards from the Regional Center.
At 12:40 p.m. local time, the president and CEO of the Southern California social services center where gunfire has erupted says the focus is on a building that houses at least 25 employees as well as a library and conference center.
Marybeth Feild of the Inland Regional Center says “the incident is in the conference area” that an outside group was renting Wednesday. She says she is not at the center, which serves people with developmental disabilities and does not know what outside group rented the center.
At 11:58 a.m. local time, a gas station manager near the site of a shooting in Southern California says there is a flood of police activity in the area.
Ana Fuentes, manager of a Shell station about a block from the scene, estimates that there are about 150 police officers flooding the area.
She said she hasn’t gotten any instructions to stay inside but that customers coming in told her about the shootings at Inland Regional Center.
Dozens of people filed out of the scene, holding their hands in their air. Other people were seen being wheeled away on gurneys.
In a cheery Facebook post on Tuesday, the IRC shared a photo of a smiling boy in front of a Christmas tree, being hugged by Santa.
“The ICF [Intermediate Care Facility] Holiday Party is in full swing and SANTA is in the house! SANTA!” the post read.
Alex Vasquez, a videographer for KNBC, the Los Angeles NBC affiliate, said on air that he was very familiar with the IRC.
“This is a center that is always full at all hours of the day, so I can just imagine there must have been a lot of people in that building. Sometimes I’ve been here where the line is even outside,” he said.
The mayhem in California came just days after a gunman barged into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing three people during a five hour siege.
Democrat Hillary Clinton was the first of the presidential candidates to weigh in on the unfolding tragedy.
“I refuse to accept this as normal,” she tweeted. “We must take action to stop gun violence now.”
She was followed by Democratic rival Martin O’Malley and Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee.
“California shooting looks very bad,” Trump tweeted. “Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!”