Police say two suspects in California shooting rampage are dead

San Bernardino police say two heavily armed suspects are dead after car chase; third person detained

Police say two suspects in Wednesday's mass shooting at a Southern California social services center were killed after a car chase.

The deaths came after two people opened fire on a holiday event at a social services center in San Bernardino, killing at least 14 people and injuring 17 others, authorities said. A third person has been detained, but it was not clear whether that person was a suspect. 

The car chase erupted as police hunted for the suspects who had fled the Inland Regional Center where the mass shooting occurred. Police riddled a black SUV with gunfire in a shootout two miles from the late-morning carnage.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at Wednesday evening press conference that the two people who were killed were wearing "assault-style clothing" and were both armed with assault rifles and handguns. He said authorities found what they believe is an explosive device at the Inland Regional Center. 

Burguan also says the person who was detained was seen running near a gunbattle, but it's not clear if that person is connected to the shooting.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff and the San Bernardino Police Department later identified the dead suspects as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, who was the woman killed by law enforcement. The third person was still detained as of 10 p.m. on Wednesday but it remains unclear if they were involved.

At a later press conference, Burguan said Farook was an environmental specialist with the San Bernardino health department who sometimes worked at the Inland Regional Center.

Burguan said that Farook angrily left an office holiday party earlier Wednesday before returning with Malik.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the couple left their baby with family Wednesday morning and never returned.

"We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured,” said Ayloush. "The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.”      

Farhan Khan, who is married to Farook's sister, spoke to reporters at the Anaheim CAIR office.

Khan said he last spoke to Farook about a week ago, adding he had "absolutely no idea why he would do this. I am shocked myself." Khan says other family members asked him to speak at the news conference, and to express their sadness over the shootings.

Meredith Davis, a spokeswoman with ATF, told KCAL9-TV the two suspects who died in the shootout were "loaded with magazines for a gunfight." 

Davis said the suspects also threw a thick-gauge copper pipe out of the SUV, but no explosives were found inside. The fake pipe bomb was equipped with a piece of material made to look like a wick.

Authorities are examining possible motives. David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's field office in Los Angeles, says one possibility is workplace violence and another is "terrorism."

The mass shooting is the deadliest U.S. gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, in which 27 people, including the gunman, were killed.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his homeland security adviser. He said it was too early to know the shooters' motives but 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, and there's some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don't happen as frequently," Obama told CBS.

The attackers invaded the Inland Regional Center and began shooting around 11 a.m. 

Marybeth Field, the president and CEO of the center, said the shooting happened in a conference area where the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health was having a banquet.

Federal and local law enforcement authorities converged on the Inland Regional Center and searched for the shooter or shooters. Stores, office buildings and at least one school were locked down in the city, which is home to 214,000 people and is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Rescue crews tend to the injured outside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, after a mass shooting on Dec. 2, 2015.
NBCLA.com / Reuters

Triage units were set up in the area, and people were seen being wheeled away on gurneys. Others walked quickly from the scene, led by authorities.

The San Bernardino Police Department initially said it was looking for one to three suspects. Police later said shots were fired and a suspect was down, injured and taken into custody near a dark-colored SUV a few miles away from the facility. However, it wasn't immediately clear if the suspect was related to the deadly shooting attack. One officer was hit by gunfire and hospitalized but the injuries didn't appear to be life threatening, police said.

Police were conducting a house-to-house search in the area where the suspect was apprehended and completed the search early in the evening, when the "shelter-in-place" warning to residents was lifted, according to police. 

"This is the first time we've seen it like this, on lockdown," Hector Guerrero, husband of an employee who works in the attacked facility, told Al Jazeera. "I don't think anything like this has happened in the Inland Empire." The term refers to the metropolitan area and surrounding region just east of Los Angeles.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's Office confirmed that there were at least 14 fatalities.

Law enforcement officials said at a news conference that they had yet to establish a motive for the shooting. "We do not know if this is a terrorist incident," said the FBI's Bowdich.

Burguan said all that was known about the shooters is that "these people came prepared." 

Courts and other public facilities in the area were shut down, and law enforcement officials stationed at "all the high-profile areas" near the site of the shooting, Sheriff John McMahon said. 

Roughly 700 people emerged unharmed from the facility, and were questioned by police.

Cervantes told the LA Times that the suspect or suspects were heavily armed and possibly wearing body armor.

CBS had reported earlier that a bomb squad was also on the scene, trying to defuse what is believed to be an explosive device.

During the incident, people hid from the gunman or gunmen inside the facility. Terry Pettit, who spoke with KABC-TV, said he received text messages from his daughter that read, “Shooting at my work, people shot, in the office waiting for cops.”

Marcos Aguilera told KABC his wife works at an office next to the facility and said his wife saw a shooter enter the building and open fire. "They locked themselves in her office. They seen bodies on the floor," he said.

At a Shell gas station about a block from the site, manager Ana Fuentes said there was a flood of police activity in the area. "There's maybe, like, 150 cops going toward Hospitality Lane," she said, as sirens echoed in the background.

She said that she hasn't gotten any instructions to stay inside and that customers told her about the shootings at the center.

The center says on its website that it provides social services to people with developmental disabilities.

The facility has been the focus of recent complaints that its clients were not receiving all services requested or that some services were cut back without proper notice, said attorney Terri Keville of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

The shooting comes less than a week after a man killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In October a gunman killed nine people at a college in Oregon, and in June a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Twitter, "I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now."

Al Jazeera and wire services. With additional reporting by Haya El Nasser.

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