SAN BERNARDINO, Cali. — Two suspects died in a gun battle with police Wednesday hours after authorities say they burst into a holiday party at a center for people with developmental disabilities and killed 14 people.
But it was unclear whether the furious shootout with the male and female was the end of a daylong manhunt after the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
An FBI raid unfolded late Wednesday at an apartment in Redlands, where authorities were following a tip connected to the shooting.
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 assault-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. Some 20 officers were involved in the gunfight with the two, police said.
Police took a third person into custody in San Bernardino, 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 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.
Two of the firearms have been traced back to at least one of the two deceased suspects, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The other two firearms have been traced back to a third person who authorities are seeking to interview but is not believed to have been involved in the shootings today.
The man and the woman were dressed in what Burguan said was “assault-style clothing,” describing it as “dark, kind of tactical gear.”
He wouldn’t say if he knew if they were related.
The two suspects who were killed were Syed Farookm, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, said Burguan. They were in a relationship, “either boyfriend, girlfriend; husband and wife,” he said.
“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.
Investigators had discovered what outwardly looked like an explosive. Investigators are “leaning toward a pipe bomb” of some kind, he said. But he was not exactly sure what kind of device it was.
Police also found a device in the SUV that looked similar to a pipe bomb, but it was not explosive, he said.
Farook was an inspector with the county health department. He had attended the party at the Inland Regional Center but abruptly left the event before the shootings, multiple law enforcement sources told CNN.
Farook was also connected to the house in Redlands that law enforcement was investigating. Officers surrounded it into the night and could be seen sending in a robot.
Farook’s family had not been able to track him or Malik down 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.
Farook was a father, Ayloush said.
Witnessed text frightened messages
Police escorted people out of the Inland Regional Center after the shooting.
“We had to come out with our hands up and be escorted across the street to the golf course, and we stood there for hours, hours witnessing clothing of deceased ones on the street, people crying, co-workers crying, us wanting to get to our children,” a woman who works at the center told KCAL/KCBS.
Hours after the shooting, the 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.
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FOX6 News and our Tribune partner, KTLA, will update this story as more information becomes available.