As many as three gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a California social services center in a room rented by San Bernardino County health officials. A short while later, two suspects were killed in a gunbattle with officers. One other suspect was believed to be on the loose.
The gunmen, who wore what officials called "assault-style" clothing and fled in a dark-colored SUV, killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 17 more, authorities said. A motive for the shooting had not been determined as of early Wednesday evening. The number of people killed and wounded were preliminary estimates that could change, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.
The shooting occurred in a community conference room at the Inland Regional Center, a not-for-profit organization that diagnoses and provides support to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Police said the two suspects killed were a male and a female. Both were armed with assault rifles and handguns. A third person running away from the shootout has been detained, but it's unclear whether that person was involved in the attack.
Marybeth Field, the president and CEO of the center, said that the conference room where the shooting occurred was being used by the San Bernardino County Department of Health, a claim that was supported by county employees speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle. County employees said there were 100 to 200 workers in the room when the shooting occurred.
Burguan said an individual did leave the banquet room after a dispute, but it's not clear whether that person came back and engaged in the attack.
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.
Lavinia Johnson, the executive director of Inland Regional Center, told the Chronicle that she did not believe any of the Inland Regional Center employees or clients had been injured.
As of early Wednesday evening, nearby Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, a county hospital in Colton, had accepted five patients into its Level 2 trauma center. An additional patient had been discharged. Arrowhead and other county buildings later went on lockdown. Four patients were taken to Loma Linda (Calif.) University Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center, and the hospital was expecting at least three more, according to a hospital spokesperson. Loma Linda later received a bomb threat, according to a tweet from a healthcare correspondent for a local radio station.
Arrowhead, which is roughly six miles from Inland Regional Center, was likely locked down because it is a county building. Although, hospitals are generally locked down if a shooter is close by, said Ben Scaglione, director of healthcare security services for G4S, a British multinational security company.
In a total lockdown situation, security guards will limit all visitors to one or two entrances where they would be heavily screened, and the hospitals would generally accept only high-level trauma patients, Scaglione, who is vice president and secretary of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, said.
“Any situation with shooters running around, you want to make sure they don't decide to hide or go into your hospital for cover,” Scaglione said, noting that security and police officers involved and nearby would be on a heightened alert.
You really rely on law enforcement to figure out the threat,” Scaglione said, noting that receptionists and security guards are trained to listen to clues about bomb threats.
A bomb threat would generally require the evacuation of anyone in the hospital who isn't critical to operations. Scaglione not that a bomb has never been found in a U.S. hospital.
Inland Regional Center is one of 21 regional centers that serve people with developmental disabilities in California. The center employs more than 600 people. Field said the building where the shooting occurred houses at least 25 employees as well as a library and conference center.
Centers like Inland provide individuals with genetic and therapeutic counseling, family support, assessment and diagnosis, referrals to other agencies, early intervention for at-risk infants, training and education, legal and civil rights advocacy, and help connecting with community resources, according to the State of California's Department of Developmental Services.
Inland employee Sheela Stark said the center has two large buildings that require a badge to get into. However, the conference room where many public events take place — including the banquet Wednesday — is usually left open when they are expecting visitors.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report