At least 14 people were killed and 17 more wounded at a social services facility in San Bernardino, California, Wednesday, in the deadliest mass shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In a late night press conference, San Bernardino Chief of Police Jarrod Burguan informed reporters that two suspects—a man and a woman—have been killed. The male suspect was identified as Syed Rizwam Farook, a 28-year-old US citizen who worked as an environmental specialist with the county public health department. The female suspect was identified as 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik. The pair are thought to have been married or engaged.
The news of the suspects identities capped off an intense and tragic day, that began around 11 AM when the two shooters opened fire on a holiday party at the the Inland Regional Center, a sprawling complex near a golf course, and ended with a shootout involving at least 20 police officers. The center, a sprawling complex near a golf course, is the workplace of almost almost 700 staff-members who "provide services to more than 30,200 people with developmental disabilities and their families in San Bernardino and Riverside counties," according to the facility's Facebook page.
Burguan said Wednesday that it appears Farook, a food inspector, had attended the holiday party earlier in the morning, and had left "angry." He and the second shooter returned to facility in an SUV, dressed in "tactical gear" and armed with assault weapons. A manhunt following the shootout led law enforcement to a house in Redlands, California, Burguan said, where they "made contact with suspect vehicle [SUV in Redlands], that ended up in a pursuit."
The shootout and ensuing standoff went on for more than an hour, as police used armored trucks to surround a bullet-riddled SUV on a San Bernardino street. At least one officer was injured during the confrontation, according to the county sheriff's office, but the wound was not believed to be life-threatening.
In the meantime, national news media descended on the region, gathering at the adage of a giant section of the county that has been cordoned off by law enforcement. Officials milled around with reporters, waiting for updates in a situation that has shifted almost minute-to-minute. In the streets, law enforcement vehicles sped in all different directions, part of an investigation that seemed to expand across the region as day turned to night.
By the end of the night, though, the shooters' motives are still unclear. Speaking at the press conference Wednesday evening, David Bowdich, a spokesman for the Los Angeles field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also would not rule out terrorism as the impetus for today's carnage. "There are a few potential things," that have led federal officials to believe the killings could be linked to terrorism, Bowdich said before cautioning that much work remains for investigators working the case. "We will go where the evidence takes us. It's possible it goes down that road; it's possible it does not."
A number of other federal agencies were on the scene, including the Department of Homeland Security. Not long after police were called to Inland Regional Center, where at least one shooter opened fire on a group in a conference room, a plane with no call sign appeared in the area, according to a flight tracking website.The aircraft—a single-engine turbo-prop used primarily for surveillance—is registered to DHS, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. The plane circled the skies above San Bernardino for hours on Wednesday, mainly in the area where the shooting took place, but occasionally flying above locations in line with where police were conducting their investigation.
Around the time that police engaged in a shootout with two of the suspects, the DHS plane ended its mission, according to flight data. A spokesperson for DHS would not comment on the plane specifically.
The tragedy comes less than a week after 57-year-old Robert Dear allegedly killed three and wounded nine more at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But the San Bernardino incident makes for a sharp contrast with the deluge of mass shootings that have struck the United States over the past year in that it does not appear to have been the work of a lone gunman.
"We don't yet know what the motives of the shooters are but what we do know is that there are steps we can take to make Americans safer," President Barack Obama said in a televised interview with CBS News just after the shooting Wednesday. "We should never think that this is just something that just happens in the ordinary course of events because it doesn't happen with the same frequency in other countries."
As of Monday, there had been 351 mass shootings in America so far in 2015—a rate of more than one per day—according to a tally compiled by the Washington Post.