SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (FOX 11 / AP) - Crisis response experts from Los Angeles were at the disposal of San Bernardino County authorities today, as investigators examined whether international terrorism was a factor in a massacre committed by a couple who later died in a gun battle with law enforcement officers.
The shooting Wednesday inside a San Bernardino treatment center for people with developmental disabilities -- and the subsequent gun battle -- shocked the nation and left similar facilities and law enforcement across the
Southland on edge.
President Barack Obama called it part of a pattern of mass shootings with "no parallel anywhere else in the world," and this morning he ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at all U.S. federal facilities in the United
States and abroad and on all U.S. Navy ships.
Federal officials from Los Angeles and elsewhere in the nation worked today to uncover the motive for the attack and determine if there was an international terrorism component or if it should be regarded strictly as workplace violence.
The Los Angeles Police Department, which was already on a heightened state of alert due to the recent Paris terror attacks, did not immediately mobilize following Wednesday's 11 a.m. shooting in the Inland Regional Center, where 14 people were killed and 21 wounded.
But the LAPD briefly went on a modified tactical alert in response to the violence. The alert enabled the department to extend officers' shifts, according to Officer Aareon Jefferson.
Under a full tactical alert, only priority calls would be answered. The modified tactical alert was lifted shortly after 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the two suspects in the shooting were confirmed to be dead. Authorities identified them as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who were married two years and had a 6-month-old daughter.
Farook was born in the United States of Pakistani parents and was reported to be a five-year employee of the San Bernardino County public health agency, which was holding a holiday party during which the shooting erupted. The Los Angeles Times reported that Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia last year and returned with a new wife he met online.
At a news conference this morning, David Bowdich of the FBI said Malik came to the United States with Farook in July 2014 on a work visa and had a Pakistani passport. The couple married after arriving in the U.S.
Bowdich said investigators were working to determine why the couple opened fire on the victims, and he stressed that "the fact-finding process takes time."
"We do not yet know the motive," Bowdich said. "There was obviously a mission ... we do not know why." Bowdich said it would be "irresponsible" to describe the crime as terrorism until more is known.
San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan, also at the news conference this morning, said it was not known if any of the victims was specifically targeted by the couple. "They sprayed the room with bullets," Burguan said. He noted that Farook had been at the party earlier but left, possibly after having some type of dispute.
Burguan said the preliminary investigation determined that the suspects fired 65 to 75 rounds in the room. The couple wore black clothing and combat-style vests, but were not wearing body armor as had been earlier thought.
A candlelight vigil will be held at 6 p.m. at San Manuel Stadium, 280 S. E St., San Bernardino. Burguan said the community is tight-knit and resilient. "We will survive this," Burguan said.
On Wednesday, Farook's brother-in-law Farhan Khan, who said he is the husband of Farook's sister, told reporters his entire family is "shocked and very sorry for what happened." "We had no idea something (like) this could happen," Khan said at an Anaheim news conference organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA).
Apparently fearing an anti-Muslim backlash, CAIR-LA's Executive Director, Hussam Ayloush, issued a statement on behalf of the group and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured," Ayloush said. "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."
In a precautionary move, the Harbor Regional Center in Torrance closed for the rest of the day Wednesday following the shootings, as did the North Los Angeles County Regional Center, and the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center. All of them reopened Thursday.
The city of Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center was activated "out of an abundance of caution" to monitor the situation, but city officials said there were "no known impacts from the shooting in the city."
"Our police and fire agencies are in contact with their counterparts in San Bernardino and are on standby to assist as needed," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
"In addition, my Mayor's Office Crisis Response Team, trained in trauma intervention and grief counseling, has offered its support to San Bernardino -- with a team of volunteers being made available to assist law enforcement agencies with outreach to affected family members, friends and the community."
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the attack reflected planning. "Based upon what we have seen and based upon how they were equipped there had to have been some degree of planning to this," he said. "I don't think they just ran home, put on these types of tactical clothes, grabbed guns and came back on a spur of the moment thing."
Police and witnesses said the assailants walked into a holiday party in a conference room and started shooting. Farook had been there earlier, then left angrily, according to reports from the scene.
According to Burguan, the investigation led police to a home in Redlands, and as officers approached, Farook and Malik fled in a dark SUV. A pursuit ensued, ending back in San Bernardino, where a gun battle ensued.
Farook and Malik were killed in the prolonged shootout, Burguan said. He said both suspects were armed with assault rifles and handguns.
At this morning's briefing, Burguan said a San Bernardino police officer suffered a leg wound that was not believed life-threatening, and a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy suffered leg cuts, possibly from shrapnel.
The suspects fired about 75 rounds during the gun battle, and about two dozen law enforcement officers fired about 380 rounds, Burguan said. The suspects had about 1,600 rounds of ammunition on them or in their vehicle, Burguan said.
Agents from the Los Angeles field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were sent to the scene of the morning shooting, along with personnel from the FBI. Agents from Homeland Security
Investigations also responded to the shooting.
According to the facility's Facebook page, the Inland Regional Center has nearly 670 staff members and provides services to more than 30,200 people with developmental disabilities and their families in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
As the shooting investigation unfolded, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued a reminder that people can take steps to try to protect themselves in an active-shooter situation. The department has a website and video available with tips at activeshooter.lasd.org.
Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino. Most fatalities in a mass shooting since 1992. Today is now the 3rd worst mass killing since '92.
The City of SB: Police are asking for your help, seeking three suspects who fled in the scene, call 866-346-7632 or 1-800-78CRIME if you have any information.
Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) released the following statement regarding the tragic mass shooting in San Bernardino today:
“Today brings another senseless mass shooting with more innocent lives lost. We mourn for those who were killed, we pray for those who were injured, we grieve for those who loved the lost, and we hold our own loved ones a little tighter. Part of us, sadly, also instinctively wants to start steeling ourselves for the news of the next one to come.
“This is a season dedicated to light and miracles, and one dark act will not change that. But it’s also time we come together and see the light as a nation to stop this kind of thing from happening. That won’t take a miracle, just resolve.”
From Phil Shuman:
Outside the perimeter of the shooting scene, as groups of employees and others evacuated from the buildings were escorted to waiting buses, the most overwhelming thing to me was the silence.
The dozens of people walked by almost in shock. The media was out in force, essentially leaving them alone as they walked by. Sure there was traffic noise and a helicopter overhead, but in the immediate area, in which the roads had been shut down, everyone seemed just stunned . Not again. Another mass shooting. Why?
How many dead? Three gunmen? What did they do in that facility ? Questions with no immediate answers. There were hours of that at the intersection of Orange Show and Waterman.Then, without warning, sirens erupted and police cars ,marked and unmarked, screamed by us from all directions towards the pursuit and gun battle that apparently killed two of the suspects.
Then it was on to the Hernandez Center, a park and building designated as the reunion site, as more stunned and silent busloads of those who were inside finally arrived to meet up with loved ones (inside and privately) they had been texting and calling for hours.