San Bernardino shooting: How the day unfolded as 14 left dead in America's worst mass shooting since Sandy Hook

Two suspects – Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik – were killed in a shootout with police four hours after the attack on the health department building

Tim Walker
San Bernardino
,Victoria Richards
Thursday 03 December 2015 07:45 GMT
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14 people were killed and another 17 injured in the attack on the health centre
14 people were killed and another 17 injured in the attack on the health centre (AP)

Early morning, 2 December, Southern California

In San Bernadino, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, a Christmas party begins at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for local residents with cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental difficulties. Cuts have hit the centre, which provides some services and assessments for free to local residents of this city of 210,000 people.

One of the staff is Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, an American citizen. At some point in the next two or three hours, according to eye-witnesses, an argument breaks out. Voices are raised, and Farook leaves the party.

11am, 2 December

In the emergency call centre of San Bernadino, the first call comes in: at least two people, armed with assault rifles and handguns, wearing ski masks and military gear, have stormed the Inland Regional Center, a state-run centre for the with developmental difficulties, and opened fire indiscriminately. One of the assailants, we now know, is Farook. His wife, Tashfeen Malik, is the other. Their six-month-old baby, meanwhile, has been left at home in the nearby city of Redlands with Farook's mother. The couple have said they are going to a doctor's appointment.

Kevin Ortiz, 24, calls his father from a conference room: he has been shot three times but says that the police had stormed the building and he would survive. Many were not as lucky: 14 people are dead and a further 17 wounded. Dozens of people file out of the building, holding their hands in their air. Other people are seen being wheeled away on gurneys.

This blood-soaked scene has witnessed America’s 355th mass shooting of 2015, and the most deadly since a gunman opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, killing 20 children and 6 teachers.

But there are differences here from the grimly familiar routine of responding to a mass shooting. The shooters flee the scene, and there is more than one of them.

The two suspects were killed in a shootout with police four hours after the attack
The two suspects were killed in a shootout with police four hours after the attack (AP)

12pm, 2 December

Terry Petit says he received a text from his daughter saying she was hiding after gunfire erupted at the social services facility where she works. Mr Petit chokes back tears as he reads the texts for reporters outside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. He says she wrote: "People shot. In the office waiting for cops. Pray for us. I am locked in an office."

Police search the people filing out of the building before they reunite them with their loved ones. Ambulances and law enforcement vehicles race through the area with sirens blaring.

President Barack Obama is brought up to date on the shooting. The White House says he was briefed by his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and has asked to be kept informed as the situation develops.

2pm, 2 December

Police estimate that at least 14 people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded. Police Chief Jarrod Burguan says at a news conference that up to three shooters entered the building and opened fire - and warns that the numbers of dead and injured could change. Authorities lock down courts and increase police presence at other public facilities.

2.45pm, 2 December

Obama comments on the shooting in an interview with CBS News. He says there's a pattern of mass shootings in the US that has no parallel elsewhere in the world, and there are "steps" America can take to reduce the frequency of mass shootings. He calls for the country to come together to make mass shootings a rare occurrence - and says the US should never think mass shootings are a "normal" part of life.

3pm, 2 December

A little over four hours after the attack, as police follow a tip to a property in the nearby town of Redlands, a black SUV believed to be related to the shooting speeds away from the house. The pursuit takes police back into San Bernardino, where they finally corner the vehicle and exchange fire with the two suspects inside, who also fling pipe bombs.

News choppers circle as squad cars and armoured SWAT vehicles swarm into the area. The gun battle is soon over, one police officer is wounded; both suspects, a man and a woman, are dead. The local residential neighbourhood is closed off for hours as officers go from home to home in case any further suspects are on the loose. A third person seen running from the scene is later detained, but the authorities say they think it unlikely he is involved in the attack.

Armoured vehicles surround the SUV driven by the suspects in San Bernardino
Armoured vehicles surround the SUV driven by the suspects in San Bernardino (AP)

Elizabeth Garcia, 23, an employee at a public transport office a block from the shootout, says she and her colleagues heard gunfire. “We knew what had happened earlier in the day, so we all just ran to the back of the room,” she says, as she waits at the police cordon at dusk to collect her four-year-old daughter, whose day-care centre is still on lockdown.

5pm, 2 December

Police serve a search warrant on a home in Redlands, California, in connection with the shooting in neighboring San Bernardino. City spokesman Carl Baker says Redlands police are assisting San Bernardino police in the search. An Associated Press reporter watches as a half-dozen vehicles carrying helmeted police drove into the area. One officer carrying an assault rifle orders reporters to clear the area, and an armored vehicle parks outside a row of homes. The action follows a gunbattle between occupants of an SUV and San Bernardino police not far from the original shooting scene.

A witness says he saw a black SUV pull slowly away from a social services center as people ran frantically from the building. Glenn Willwerth says he locked up his paper business across the street and went outside with a gun. He heard 10 to 15 shots and saw an SUV with blacked-out windows drive away.

6pm, 2 December

Police say two suspects, one male and one female, are dead after the shooting at a Southern California social services center. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan also says at a news conference that authorities found what they believe is an explosive device at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Bomb squads are working on it.

The FBI says it's a possibility that the shooting is "workplace violence" or "terrorism" and Mr Burguan says the suspects were wearing "assault-style clothing" and were both armed with assault rifles and handguns.

6.40pm, 2 December

Law enforcement officers are calling for people to come to the front door of a home in Redlands, California. One of them calls out: "This is the FBI." Officers in riot gear, a bomb squad unit and armored vehicles are outside and have brought in robot devices. It's unclear if anyone is inside the home.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan says an SUV was seen leaving the residence earlier, leading to a police pursuit and gunbattle. Meredith Davis, a spokeswoman with ATF, tells KCAL9-TV the two suspects were each armed with a long gun and a handgun and were wearing tactical-style clothing "loaded with magazines for a gunfight". Ms Davis says the suspects also threw a thick-gauge copper pipe out of the SUV, but no explosives were found inside. The fake pipe bomb was equipped with a piece of material made to look like a wick. Authorities are tracing the serial numbers on the guns and authorities will be dispatched to those addresses.

9pm, 2 December

The brother-in-law of one of the suspects says he is stunned to hear of his relative's involvement in Wednesday's shooting. Farhan Khan, who is married to the sister of Syed Farook, speaks to reporters at the Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Khan says he last spoke to Farook about a week ago. He adds that he has "absolutely no idea why he would do this. I am shocked myself." Khan says other family members asked him to speak at the news conference, and to express their sadness over the shootings.

Police say they believe the man and woman killed in a gun battle with police after Wednesday's mass shooting were the only two shooters.

11am, 3 December

The dead male gunman was identified last night as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, an American citizen. The dead woman was his wife, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik. The couple reportedly left behind their six-month-old daughter with Mr Farook’s mother. At a press conference, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan says the authorities have yet to rule out terrorism as a motive for the attack.

Police escort people from the building after the shooting
Police escort people from the building after the shooting (AP)

However, it also emerges that Mr Farook was employed as an environmental health specialist with the county health department, that he had been present at the Christmas gathering yesterday morning, and that he left shortly before the shooting after getting into an argument with one or more of his fellow attendees. Chief Burguan nonetheless tells reporters he thinks it unlikely to have been a spur-of-the-moment attack. "There has to be some degree of planning," he says.

A picture on a dating website profile for Farook
A picture on a dating website profile for Farook (iMilap.com)

The Southern California county where a pair of shooters killed 14 people and wounded 17 others reports that it will close most of its offices the rest of the week. James Ramos, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, says only the most essential services will remain open Thursday and Friday. Mr Ramos says supervisors will try to help everyone affected by the tragedy.

The New York Daily News publishes a front page headlined: "God isn't fixing this", asking politicians to stop praying - and to start taking action on gun control.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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