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Suspects dead, motive sought after 14 killed in California

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People wait at a community center for a family member who was near a shooting. Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

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Law enforcement search for a suspect in a mass shooting at a Southern California social services center on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a California center that serves people with developmental disabilities, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said.

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Armored vehicles surround an SUV following a shootout in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. The scene followed a military-style attack that killed multiple people and wounded others at a California center that serves people with developmental disabilities, authorities said.

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Authorities search for a suspect in a mass shooting that occurred at a Southern California social services center on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a California center that serves people with developmental disabilities, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS First responders attend to people outside a Southern California social services center in San Bernardino, where one or more gunmen opened fire, shooting multiple people on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.
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This aerial view shows a Southern California social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., where authorities said multiple people were shot Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. >> A heavily armed man and woman dressed for battle opened fire on a holiday banquet for his co-workers, killing 14 people and seriously wounding more than a dozen others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, they died in a shootout with police.

Authorities were trying to determine a motive, which could include workplace violence or terrorism.

Wednesday’s shooting happened at a social services center for the disabled where the suspect’s colleagues with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health were renting space for a celebration. It was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since the attack at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago that left 26 children and adults dead.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan identified one dead suspect as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, the other as Tashfeen Malik, 27, his wife or fiancee. Burguan said Farook was born in the United States; the chief said he did not know Malik’s background.

The attackers invaded the Inland Regional Center about 60 miles east of Los Angeles around 11 a.m., opening fire in a conference area where county health officials were having an employee banquet, said Marybeth Feild, president and CEO of the nonprofit center.

“They came prepared to do what they did, as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said.

Farook attended the event before leaving — and returning to kill.

Co-worker Patrick Baccari said he was sitting at the same table as Farook, who suddenly disappeared, leaving his coat on his chair. Baccari said when the shooting started, he sought refuge in a bathroom and suffered minor wounds from shrapnel slicing through the wall.

Baccari described Farook as reserved and said he showed no signs of unusual behavior. Earlier this year he traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a wife, later growing a beard, Baccari said.

The FBI is investigating several possible motives, including workplace violence and terrorism, according to David Bowdich, assistant director of the bureau’s Los Angeles office. He did not elaborate.

Farook was a restaurant inspector for the health department, according to public records. Police chief Burguan said he had been a county employee for five years.

The couple dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with relatives Wednesday morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said after talking with family. Farhan Khan, who is married to Farook’s sister, told reporters he last spoke to his brother-in-law about a week ago. He said he was in shock, condemned the violence, and had “absolutely no idea why he would do this.”

About four hours after the morning carnage, police hunting for the killers riddled a black SUV with gunfire in a shootout 2 miles from the social services center in this Southern California city of 214,000 people. Farook and Malik were found with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, and were wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, authorities said.

Television news helicopters captured the aftermath, as officers slowly approached the mangled SUV.

In the morning, as the day’s first bursts of gunfire echoed through the large three-building complex, some people locked themselves in offices, desperately waiting for police and texting or making hushed phone calls to loved ones.

“People shot. In the office waiting for cops. Pray for us. I am locked in an office,” Terry Petit’s daughter, who works at the center, texted him.

Petit choked back tears as he read his daughter’s words for reporters outside the center, where social workers find jobs, housing and transportation and provide other services to people with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Olivia Navarro said her daughter, Jamile Navarro, a case manager at the social service center, called her and whispered that she was hiding in a locked room.

“I said, ‘All right, I’ll be there, turn off the lights, don’t make a sound,’” Navarro said. “And that was it.”

Her daughter survived.

That the violence happened at a place dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities — even if they were not targeted — made it even harder for some to comprehend.

“These are all disabled kids, very disabled,” said Sherry Esquerra, who was searching for her daughter and son-in-law, both of whom work at the center. “She gets all the services she possibly could for these kids. So I just don’t understand why somebody would come in and start shooting.”

According to its web page, the center has a client base of more than 30,000 people and their families. It is a privately run nonprofit, the largest of its kind in California with about 670 employees.

FBI agents and other law enforcement authorities converged on the center and searched room to room for the attackers. Triage units were set up outside, and people were wheeled away on stretchers.

Seventeen people were wounded, according to authorities. Ten were hospitalized in critical condition, and three were in serious condition, Fire Chief Tom Hannemann said.

Others were marched from the building, hands raised so police could search them and make sure the attackers weren’t trying to slip out.

They had indeed escaped. One witness, Glenn Willwerth, who runs a business across the street, said he heard 10 to 15 shots and then saw an SUV with tinted windows pull out “very calmly, very slowly” and drive off.

As the manhunt dragged on, stores, office buildings and schools were locked down in the city, and roads blocked off.

With police looking for a dark SUV, officers staking out a home in the nearby city of Redlands saw a vehicle matching that description. Public records show the home is a possible residence of a family member of Farook.

Authorities pursued the SUV, and a gunbattle erupted around 3 p.m. One officer among nearly two dozen involved in the shootout suffered a minor injury.

A fake bomb — a metal pipe stuffed with cloth — was thrown from the SUV during the chase, said Agent Meredith Davis of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Three explosive devices — thought to be real and all connected to one another — were found at the social service center and later detonated by a bomb squad, police said.

A third person who was spotted running near the gunbattle was detained, but Burguan said it was unclear if that person had anything to do with the crime. At a late-night news conference, Burguan also said that early witness accounts of three shooters were probably wrong: “We are reasonably confident at this point that we have two shooters and we have two dead suspects.”

President Barack Obama urged the country to take steps to reduce mass shootings, including stricter gun laws and stronger background checks.

“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” Obama told CBS.

Federal authorities said that the two assault rifles and two handguns used in the violence were purchased legally, but they haven’t said how and when they got into the hands of the two shooters.

The social services center has two large buildings that require a badge to get in, said Sheela Stark, a member of its board of trustees. However, the conference room that hosts public events such as Wednesday’s banquet is usually left open when visitors are expected.

Associated Press writers Brian Melley, John Antczak, Christopher Weber, John Rogers, Christine Armario and Sue Manning in Los Angeles; Amy Taxin in Redlands; Eric Tucker and Tami Abdollah in Washington; Gillian Flaccus in Anaheim, Alina Hartounian in Phoenix; Michael Sisak in Philadelphia; and Hannah Cushman in Chicago contributed to this story. Pritchard reported from Los Angeles.

59 responses to “Suspects dead, motive sought after 14 killed in California”

  1. SteveToo says:

    One or three? That is the question.

  2. FARKWARD says:

    It’s become far too suspicious that this activity seems to be continuously escalating, in the advent of Obama’s “full-court-press” for “GUN CONTROL” in the U.S.A… “FEAR” is a very powerful tool and the contrived sacrifice of human lives gets the attention of all…

    • thos says:

      You NAILED it!

    • PoiDoggy says:

      @Farkward, I think your tinfoil hat is slipping…

    • kolohepalu says:

      Wait for it: “if some of the people at the party had been carrying concealed weapons, this might not have happened. .” Sure- keeping the situation the same or even encouraging more gun-carrying is a great solution- ’cause this is “Murica and the disproportionate lobbying power of the NRA allows the continued misinterpretation of the 2nd amendment. The selfishness of a few continues to cost the lives of many.

      • UHFAN1984 says:

        Let’s see California has the most restrictive gun laws on the books so why did this happen? OH lets see criminals and Terrorist don’t follow the law. Cause this is looking more like a terror attack funny how 2 of the shooters are Muslim….

        • TigerEye says:

          So, if it had happened in a place like Colorado, there’s no way they could’ve got through the door right? Yes, it is funny that they might be Muslim — that’s kind of unusual.

  3. Ronin006 says:

    This is a facility for people with developmental disabilities which means mental or physical impairments. When the shooters are arrested, I think we will learn they were former patients with mental disabilities who had a beef with the facility and that they acquired their weapons illegally.

    • TigerEye says:

      And, if they’re just a bunch of losers who purchased their weapons legally and picked that facility because it was defenseless? Sure, if they survive they’ll come up with a litany of complaints — which they probably came up with as an afterthought.

  4. richierich says:

    I would be shocked if this facility did not have video cameras. Hopefully more details will come soon.

  5. thos says:

    According to the gospel of Saul Alinskey, it would be one of his devotees (e.g. Queen in waiting Hillary or the current occupant of the White House) who is orchestrating these seemingly random, highly publicized gun play events. Why? To use fear and panic to achieve their political power objectives, in this case total confiscation of fire arms from law abiding owners. Acordig to the recent book by Dinesh D’Souza (‘Stealing America’) there is virtually no difference between Mafia heavy hitters and those of the Democrat Party. For both POWER is the unvarying way.

  6. lokela says:

    These things will not stop anytime soon. Our laws are too liberal.

  7. cojef says:

    Too early to draw any conclusions. News releases have been sketchy at best and the authorities are holding info very close. Even the number of assailants at best are guesses. Much info is being gathered to determine who or what causes were being projected by the group?

    • TigerEye says:

      Psychopathic losers wanting to feel powerful for a day but possessing neither the brain power nor the imagination to come up with something other than what they saw on the TEEVEE. “Just like Columbine!” was the refrain of at least a couple of copycats. Anyone looking for a “reason” for this could probably start and end with an examination of their glands.

    • st1d says:

      one obvious thing about this incident: social media and broadcast news followed the actions of first responders closely, revealing their movements that could be viewed by the suspects as they moved to escape or by coconspirators in remote locations. mumbai and paris experienced the same phenom that makes it difficult for responders trying to effect entry into buildings to prevent further injury or death.

  8. Mei mei says:

    blessings and condolences go out to the victims and their loved ones…

    • Boots says:

      Oh Please. Tired of blessings and condolences. How about this country does something to restrict guns. It is stupid to allow easy access to so many guns. This is nothing more than American terrorism. Thanks NRA. Hope you enjoy your profits.

      • mikethenovice says:

        Don’t forget that the Republicans are also behind the second amendment.

      • lee1957 says:

        Ever try to buy a gun in California? Didn’t think so.

      • d_bullfighter says:

        yawn…another inane NRA comment. I bet the families of those who were killed are not tired of blessings and condolences. Boots as usual, is quick to make an unsubstantiated assumption about it being American terrorism. Could it be Muslim terrorism? A wise person waits for the facts to emerge.

        • Boots says:

          I think the victims of American violence are tired of nothing being done to fix the situation. What will it take to pass needed laws to reduce these occurrences? Pretty pathetic that there have been more mass shootings this year than days in the year to date. Sad and pathetic. And of course this is American terrorism. It happened in the US.

        • TigerEye says:

          Terrorism is terrorism. Do you think it matters to the victims who pulled the trigger? Also, if the killer was American, that would make him an American terrorist.

        • d_bullfighter says:

          According to boot’s misguided logic, terrorism is attributable to “where” it happened instead of “who” perpetrated it. Using his poor reasoning skills, the Paris attack last month was French terrorism instead of Islamic terrorism.

      • DeltaDag says:

        Boots, that comment was crass even for you. Are you that insensitive toward people you interact with face-to-face? If so, then hopefully you don’t have any guns of your own. You seem way too impulsive to be a trustworthy and responsible gun owner.

        • Boots says:

          What is insensitive is doing nothing after so many cases of American terrorism. Oh, you give some condolences. Well that sure is going to do a lot of good. The people will be just as dead, and nothing will be done to prevent future incidences of gun slaughter. You are the insensitive one for being so willing to tolerate it.

      • TigerEye says:

        Expressing her condolences is something she can do right here and now. Giving someone a choice between that and changing the fabric of society via newspaper comment section is not reasonable.

  9. serious says:

    Did anyone hear the dialogue on CNN about the armed vehicles the law enforcement used??? These were the military vehicles that “our Commander in Chief” said should not be used by the police since it intimated civilians–of course that was in Fergerson against a different “class” of people.

    • pohaku96744 says:

      Really strange, now I see armed security guards at HNL wearing bullet proof vest.

    • TigerEye says:

      Were they facing people armed with automatic weapons back then? If not, then, right, different.

      • pohaku96744 says:

        Private Security now wearing bullet proof vest, more of a cost issue for the company then seurity and well being for the public. Vests are expensive, cuts into their profit.

      • hybrid1 says:

        Their motive is only one reason for the killing. Lack of Gun Control is another, even larger reason. Obama and congress should create laws to control all of the reasons to stop this gun killing: Mental issues, universal background check, eliminate Military automatic rifles, terrorists, etc. Create laws to cover all of these to stop this killing which amounts to hundreds to thousands per day of deaths by guns. The NRA should be banned from lobbying for guns which kill DAILY!

        • d_bullfighter says:

          Fact is California has one of the most strict gun laws of all the 50 States. So lack of gun control is a false premise. Do your homework!

    • Cricket_Amos says:

      I did hear this, and the first thing that occurred to me was that these were the kind of vehicles that were just used in San Bernardino to stop the killers. If this is the case, I look forward to his admitting that perhaps he misspoke.

  10. pohaku96744 says:

    Government knows more than what it is saying to the media. Noticed FBI did not rule out terrorism, got on scene fast, vetted name of possible suspects. Noticed arm security at the airport are now wearing bullet vest. When asked why, they say State Airport authorities believe higher alert is coming. Interesting.

    • TigerEye says:

      What else would you call a bunch of armed cowards shooting multiple innocent people? Of course it’s a terrorist act. I can’t see how anyone would be happier if they were serving one end over another. Certainly wouldn’t matter to the victims.

  11. usahwn says:

    frustrated idiots not happy with their lives. why can’t they just blow out their brains instead of causing grief to innocents and families?

  12. GorillaSmith says:

    Let’s see: 2 Muslims back from a romantic getaway to Saudi Arabia mysteriously shoot up this facility. When the cops shoot them dead, they find a pipe bomb in their SUV.

    And the president’s takeaway is to use this tragedy for even more gun control? Some people’s cynicism knows no bounds.

  13. pohaku96744 says:

    Just woke up to the sounds of Marines training, sounds of freedom. Night ops, probably Ospreys. Need to take this war back to the terrorist and “gut” those here in U.S. We also start by getting rid of the village idiot running this country.

  14. hawaiikone says:

    Nice to finally see the SA stepping in and blocking offensive comments. Leaving the post intact but blurred lets us see who the repeat offenders are as well.

  15. butinski says:

    Motive? My guess, and only a guess at this time, is that the guy had some altercation at the company party. Alcohol served? He was a Muslim, was he harassed about that? He was born in the US, quiet, married and had an infant daughter. No parent would think of creating a premeditated terrorist act, leaving the infant parentless. Don’t know if he was the only Muslim working there and don’t know if he was being harassed. How many of us, white, asian, latino, black, have been subject to insults and ignorant comments by others at our workplaces because we looked or were different? Every person has a melting point at which time emotion takes over. No, I don’t think this was premeditated. Let the facts come out.

    • Cricket_Amos says:

      Perhaps not this act, but the evidence indicates that the two killers were getting prepared for some kind of terrorist act. Something was being premeditated, that seems incontrovertable.

  16. hybrid1 says:

    Their motive is only one reason for the killing. Lack of Gun Control is another, even larger reason. Obama and congress should create laws to control all of the reasons to stop this gun killing: Mental issues, universal background check, eliminate Military automatic rifles, terrorists, etc. Create laws to cover all of these to stop this killing which amounts to hundreds to thousands per day of deaths by guns. The NRA should be banned from lobbying for guns which kill DAILY!

    • DeltaDag says:

      Yes hybrid1, lets just criminalize millions more American citizens and while we’re at it, lets also severely curtail or just outright outlaw political organizations that lobby for things we personally dislike. That’s the ticket to freedom. Last I cared to check, murder has been frowned upon ever since humans have been incising symbols into clay or notching bamboo. Oh, and while the nuance may be completely lost on you, the rifles used in the San Bernardino attack were California legal arms: they complied with all modifications that made them suitable for sale in that state.

  17. Cricket_Amos says:

    “The FBI is investigating several possible motives, including workplace violence and terrorism, according to David Bowdich,”
    These are not motives, these are kinds of actions that result from motives.

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