Two suspects were taken down in a shootout with San Bernardino police and one or more may have been on the run after an attack on a holiday banquet for county employees that left 14 dead and 17 wounded.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in the country since the Sandy Hook massacre three years ago this month.
One officer was injured in the initial confrontation with the suspects and was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center. His wounds are not life-threatening.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters this evening that as officers searched the Inland Regional Center, a large complex that helped the developmentally disabled, they discovered suspicious devices and “one of those is believed to be an explosive device.” The center had an auditorium that did not require key-card access and was being used at the time for a county health department banquet.
Burguan said tips led police to a residence near Center Street and Pine Avenue in neighboring Redlands. As police approached, a black SUV left and led officers on a pursuit that came back to San Bernardino.
Two suspects in the SUV were killed in the gunbattle with police: one male, one female, both dressed in “assault-style clothing,” both armed with assault rifles and handguns. The chief added that “sensitive stuff” was discovered around the vehicle.
Officials had no information to reveal on the suspects’ names, ages, or relationship.
David Bowdich of the FBI cautioned that “we do not know the contents of what’s in that house,” so agents were cautious about searching the premesis.
On whether the attack is terrorism, Bowdich said he was “still not willing to say that we know this for sure,” but said some adjustments were being made to the investigation.
“It is a possibility, but we don’t know that yet,” he said. “We will go where the evidence takes us… when we are fairly sure we’ll let you know.”
Bowdich added “there’s a few potential things” that point toward terrorism.
Burguan said there was a third suspect seen running away; “we have that person detained” but “do not know” if that person was involved. The chief said officials are trying to identify “if there was a third shooter” or if even more people were involved.
“We do not have a motive,” he said.
Responding to reports that one of the gunmen was at the banquet, had a “dispute” with someone, left and came back with his accomplices, Burguan said someone did leave the party “but we have no idea if those are the people who came back.”
Twitter erupted with gun-control advocacy while the shooting was still fresh and no details about the shooters, their weapons or motives were known.
“In 30,000 tragic deaths every year — and now
#SanBernardino — Congress is effectively complicit for its inaction,” tweeted Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Others were heaping criticism on lawmakers who tweeted their thoughts and prayers for the victims. “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Gun-control advocate Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), though, took the route of praying and waiting for more details before offering policy prescriptions: “Praying for the victims, their families & the entire
#SanBernardino community this evening as we learn more about this horrible crime.”
Islamic State supporters also weighed in, without taking any outright claims of responsibility. One tweeted at President Obama, “How does it feel when you get hit at home kuffar?” Another, using the term ISIS uses for Muslims they deem to be hypocrites, tweeted, “Munafiqeen are holding their breath right now in fear, hoping it was not a Muslim who did mass shooting in USA, while I am hoping it was.”
Another tweeted news of the shooting with “Saleel al-Sawarim” — the name of an ISIS propaganda song.
Once the British parliament voted to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State, though, ISIS tweeters turned their attention to a fury of threats against the UK.