Thursday, 3 December 2015

Suspects identified in San Bernardino shooting that left 14 people dead

The two suspects killed in the gunfight with police in the San Bernardino shooting were Syed Farook and Tashfeen Melik, said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. Some 20 officers were involved in the shootout with the two.

The two suspects killed in the SUV were in a relationship. They were “either boyfriend, girlfriend; husband and wife,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.

“I think that what we have seen and how they were equipped, there had to be some kind of planning in this,” Burguan said. But he added that police still do not know the motive for the shooting.

The shootout with the suspects happened after authorities say they burst into a holiday party at a center for people with developmental disabilities and killed 14 people and wounded 17 others.

Multiple law enforcement sources tell CNN that Farook was an inspector with the county health department, who abruptly left the event at the Inland Regional Center before the shootings.

The sources said the residence in Redlands, California, currently surrounded by law enforcement is connected to Farook. It is that house where the chase began that led to the shoot-out with the occupants of the SUV.  The sources said that Farook is known to be a U.S. citizen.

Farook’s family has not been able to track him down or his wife since Wednesday morning, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations). Farhan Khan, Farook’s brother-in-law, told reporters, “I have no idea why he would he do something like this. I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself.”

Khan said he last talked to Farook a week ago. “I don’t have words to express how sad and how devastated I am,” Khan said.

“We will go where the evidence takes us,” said the Los Angeles FBI Director when asked about the possibility of this shooting being related to terrorism.

Authorities are investigating several motives.

The violence began around 11 a.m. at the convention building at the Inland Regional Center where employees with the county health department were attending a holiday event. Witnesses said at least two shooters opened fire, killing 14 people.

“On the broader scale of the investigation, we had information there were potentially three shooters,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.

Another 17 people were hurt — many wounded by bullets from automatic-style rifles, some injured in the panic to escape.

Terry Pettit stood near the center worried sick over his daughter, who was inside. She was sending him text messages. “Shooting at my work. People shot,” one read. “Pray for us. I am locked in an office.” Pettit broke into tears, as he spoke with reporters.

“She’s been hiding,” he told them.

Fleeing in black SUV

The shooters fled in a black SUV, prompting a huge police response in the area.

As the hours passed, the hunt for the suspects continued with a tip taking officers to a home about 10 miles away in Redlands.

When detectives followed up on it, a black SUV with Utah plates passed by slowly then sped up and raced off, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told CNN. A police car spotted it and took up pursuit.

There was a shootout, the official said. The male suspect shot out of the vehicle while the woman drove. The SUV stopped a quarter a mile later, as an officer returned fire.

A device that looked like a bomb also flew out of the vehicle, Meredith Davis with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives told CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS. The SUV was racing back toward San Bernardino, she said.

Residents were stunned to hear the eruption of continuous gunfire. A barrage of bullets riddled the SUV’s windshield.

Police took a third person into custody in San Bernardino, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. That suspect was seen running away after a police shootout involving a vehicle. “We do not know if they were involved,” Burguan said. “We have that person detained.”

Suspects dressed for assault

Burguan didn’t say how old the suspects were or physically describe them in detail. He told reporters they were armed with assault-style rifles and handguns.

A law enforcement official told CNN the rifles were AR-15s or similar style weapons.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CNN that one of the guns used in the shooting was legally purchased and traces back to someone believe to be connect with the shooting. The agency would not disclose the name of the purchaser.

The man and the woman, now identified as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Melik, were dressed in what Burquan said was “assault-style clothing,” describing it as “dark, kind of tactical gear.”

Witnessed text frightened messages

Hours after the shooting, the Inland Regional Center convention center was still an active scene. The bomb squad was working to determine whether they need to blow up two suspicious devices, one of which appeared to be a pipe bomb.

Survivors of the mass shooting told of hiding in offices, bathrooms and closets, texting their loved ones that they feared they were next to be shot.

In the moments after the initial bloodbath, SWAT teams had scoured the facility, unsure whether the shooters were still there and looking for people hiding from the horror.

Marcos Aguilera received a text from his wife who works at the Inland Regional Center.

“She heard the shots and crying,” he said. The situation became confusing when the fire alarm went off.

“Everyone was confused,” he said, relating his wife’s account.

A SWAT team eventually rescued his wife and two other co-workers. “When she exited the building, she said there were multiple bodies on the floor,” Aguilera told CNN.

The center’s executive director, Lavinia Johnson, told CNN that she believed the county’s Department of Public Health was having a holiday party.

Johnson said the fire alarm went off in her building, and people began to evacuate but then the order came to stay in place.

Later police came and took people out of their offices, marching them into the parking lot with their hands in the air.

San Bernardino is a city of just over 200,000 people 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

President Barack Obama restated his call for more gun control reforms in the wake of the mass shooting. Speaking to CBS News, Obama said Congress should act in a bipartisan manner to close loopholes, including one that allows people on the TSA no-fly list to legally purchase firearms.

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