As many as three attackers opened fire at a center for people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and injuring 14 others in what the city’s police chief described as an act of domestic terrorism.
The active shooting scene erupted at the Inland Regional Center, which serves people with developmental disabilities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The person or people who opened fire fled the area, possibly in a dark SUV, and authorities have no word on their location, identities or motives, Jarrod Burguan, chief of the San Bernardino Police Department, said at a news conference.
“We do not know if this is a terrorist incident,” David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at the same news conference. “It may be, or it may not be.”
Burguan said that “at minimum, we have a domestic terrorist-type situation that occurred here.”
The number of people injured and killed is preliminary, Burguan said, adding that some of the people wounded in the shooting have serious injuries. He said that police have active leads in the investigation but did not go into specifics.
The shooting was the latest spasm of deadly gun violence in the country, and it occurred less than five days after a gunman in Colorado attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people and injuring nine others.
The shooting was first reported by the fire department shortly after 11 a.m. Pacific time, and it brought hordes of law enforcement officials to San Bernardino, a city of more than 215,000 about an hour east of Los Angeles.
“Our preliminary information is that they came prepared,” Burguan said. “They were dressed and equipped in a way that indicate they were prepared.”
He added that the attackers had “long guns, not handguns,” but said he did not have specific information available yet on the type of guns used.
Terry Petit said his daughter works at the Inland Regional Center, and that he got a text from her saying she was hiding in the building after hearing gunshots, according to the Associated Press.
Petit “choked back tears as he read the texts for reporters outside the center,” the news service reported. He told reporters that his daughter wrote: “People shot. In the office waiting for cops. Pray for us. I am locked in an office.”
Police used a robot to detonate some sort of “device” found at the scene, while investigators used a battering ram to get into the complex, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Nichole Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, said the shootings “were in no way connected to Planned Parenthood.” A Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was the site of the mass shooting last week.
Ramirez said the scene was four miles from the health-care facility. “Our staff and patients are all safe right now,” she said.
San Bernardino Police Lt. Richard Lawhead told KNBC in a broadcast interview that police received a “shots fired” call with “multiple victims down” around 11 a.m. Lawhead said the incident started at an unknown location inside Inland Regional Center.
“We are not only using our SWAT team, but using SWAT teams from other jurisdictions to clear the facility,” he told KNBC during the interview. “As far as we know it’s confined to the Inland Regional Center.”
Nuri Freeman, a vendor at the Waterman Discount Mall in San Bernardino, said police evacuated the mall shortly after 1 p.m.
“We were outside for about 15 minutes, then they let everybody back in,” said Freeman, who works at Lia’s Got Good Cense, which sells imported body oils.
Paul Lacroix said his son was able to escape after the shooting began, according to the Associated Press. Lacroix told reporters that his son said in a text that alarms started going off as word spread of gunfire and that they were ordered to exit the building “with their arms up and nothing in their hands.”
The owner of nearby Coronel Tires said in a telephone interview that the entire area was locked down.
“It’s covered,” said Coronel, who declined to give his first name. He said he saw dozens of fire trucks and possibly hundreds of police cars as well as police helicopters overhead.
Agents from the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headed to the scene of the shooting to aid local law enforcement, authorities said.
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center said it was treating six patients from the scene. Loma Linda University Medical Center said it had received four adult patients had been taken to the hospital, three of whom were in the operating room. The hospital expects to receive at least three additional patients, a spokeswoman said.
The hospital had said it was expecting an influx of patients after the shooting and went on standby alert for potential victims and called in additional staff, said spokesman Larry Becker.
President Obama was briefed about the shooting by Lisa Monaco, his homeland security adviser, according to the White House.
“Obviously our hearts go out to the victims and the families,” Obama said during an interview with CBS News. “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world, and there’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently.”
Live video from the scene showed dozens of people exiting the facility, who were then patted down by authorities, and a triage center being set up.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it put temporary flight restrictions into place over the city at the request of local law enforcement, according to a spokeswoman.
[Peter Holley, Lindsey Bever, J. Freedom du Lac and Kevin Sullivan contributed to this report.]