California shooting: Suspects identified as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA (REUTERS, AFP) – The armed couple who were suspected of killing 14 people in a mass shooting in California and later shot dead in a shootout with police were identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, described as possibly married or engaged.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Farook was a US-born county employee who had attended a holiday party at the Inland Regional Centre, a social services agency, and later returned to open fire on the celebration, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others..
He said Farook and Malik were believed to be the only shooters involved in the rampage, which ranks as the deadliest burst of US gun violence since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
He said the motive for the shooting remained unclear.
The couple were armed with assault rifles and handguns and were dressed in "assault-style" clothing.
Authorities had earlier detained an individual seen running away from the vehicle which the couple used, but investigators could not say if that person was involved in the case.
.@SanBernardinoPD SWAT on scene— Doug Saunders (@crimeshutterbug)
- DISPUTE AT HOLIDAY PARTY -
The attack unfolded at 11 am on the campus of the Inland Regional Centre, an agency that serves the developmentally disabled, in a building housing a conference centre that was being used by the county department.
The Los Angeles Times, citing information from a senior federal official who was monitoring the case, reported that investigators believe one of the shooters left the party after getting into an argument and returned with one or two armed companions.
Police chief Burguan said he was aware someone left the party following a dispute but did not know whether that individual returned. He said he knew of no possible motive for the shooting spree.
Bomb disposal technicians were examining a number of suspicious items left by the armed assailants at the Inland Regional Centre, including one that was "believed to be a potentially explosive device."
Police also searched door to door in the Redlands neighbourhood near the site of the attack.
The police chief said he knew of no possible motive behind the attack.
"We have no information at this point that this is terrorist-related, in the traditional sense that people may be thinking," he added. "Obviously, at minimum, we have a domestic-type terrorist-type situation that occurred here."
The Inland Regional Centre is one of 21 facilities set up by the state and run under contract by non-profit organisations to serve people with developmental disabilities, said Ms Nancy Lungren, spokesman for the California Department of Developmental Services.
Ms Lavinia Johnson, executive director of the facility, told CNN the suspects opened fire inside a conference building in the complex where a holiday party was being held for county health department personnel.
The conference building sits adjacent to the two larger three-storey buildings that house most of the agency's offices at the complex, she said.
- "SHOOTING AT MY WORK. PEOPLE SHOT" -
After the shooting, television footage showed dozens of people coming out of a building with their hands raised and walking to a parking lot, ringed by heavily armed police.
One man whose son works in the building said he received text messages from his son who told him he saw three shooters enter the building.
"He said there were multiple wounded and fatalities," the man told the local television station KABC.
A woman who works at a building texted her father, Mr Terry Pettit: "Shooting at my work. People shot."
Mr Pettit told CNN affiliate KABC that his daughter, who was locked in her office, told him 10 to 20 people had been shot.
The White House said President Barack Obama had been "briefed by his Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco about the shooting and had asked to be updated on the situation as it develops".
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted: "I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now."
The shooting comes just days after a lone gunman killed three people during a stand-off at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.
It was certain to further stoke the bitter debate about gun control in the United States, where shootings are a part of daily life.
So far in 2015, there have been more than 350 shootings in which four or more people died, according to the crowd-sourced website shootingtracker.com, which keeps a running tally of mass shootings.
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