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San Bernardino shooting: police exchange gunfire with apparent suspects


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California shooting: 14 dead, multiple shooters

Police and FBI officials report that more than 14 are dead and more than 14 are wounded in a shooting in San Bernardino, California.

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Police have captured one suspect and killed another after a gun battle not far from the site of a mass shooting in which a least 14 were killed in San Bernardino, California, according to unconfirmed reports.

The third suspect is thought to have fled the SUV used as a getaway vehicle. 

The suspects' SUV on the street.

The suspects’ SUV on the street.

Police SWAT teams in armoured cars blocked a black SUV on San Bernardino Avenue. When they approached the vehicle one suspect “rolled out” of the vehicle and was captured nearby, while the other two opened fire, police sources told US network MSNBC.

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Following the confrontation between suspects and police, helicopter footage shows police SWAT teams in the area apparently conducting a door-to-door search. The hunt comes after 14 people were killed and 17 injured in the incident at the Inland Regional Centre, which employs about 700 people and provides services to youth with developmental disabilities. 

Sergeant Vicki Cervantes of the San Bernardino confirmed only that one suspect had been wounded, while it was possible another was on the run.

A scene from the shootout on a city street.

A scene from the shootout on a city street. Photo: Supplied

She said one police officer had been injured during the incident and had been transported to hospital, but is not suffering life threatening injuries.

The attack was made on a conference centre within the IRC facility that had been rented out for the day for a Christmas party by California’s department of health.

The men attacked the office building about 11am on Wednesday (6am AEST on Thursday) during an event being held for staff from around the county, and opened fire before escaping. 

A police heicopter hovers around the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where the mass shooting occurred.

A police heicopter hovers around the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where the mass shooting occurred. Photo: TNS

Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said up to three men were possibly involved in the attack.

“They came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission,” he said.

The men reportedly attacked the centre with long arms, wearing what some witnesses described as tactical gear. Fox 10 reported the suspects were wearing ski masks and bullet-proof vests.

Police respond to the scene of the shooting.

Police respond to the scene of the shooting. Photo: AP

There have been reports that police used a robot to detonate a “device” they feared might have been left during the attack.

Though mass shootings are now almost a daily event in the United States it is rare for so many suspects to be involved, and for the shooters to escape. 

The attack came just five days after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs – the latest in a long string of mass shootings that have rocked the country and prompted debates about the easy availability of firearms.

Victims are treated on the road after the shooting.

Victims are treated on the road after the shooting. Photo: KNBC via AP

TV reports from San Bernardino showed chaotic scenes – people fleeing office buildings in lines with their hands on their heads, and others being wheeled out on stretchers.

 

A victim of the shooting is taken away by paramedics.

A victim of the shooting is taken away by paramedics. Photo: Screengrab

 

Local television news stations said they had been asked not to show live aerial shots of the situation as it unfolded so as not give away the movements of authorities.

Triage units were being set up in the area, and some people were seen being wheeled away on stretchers. Others walked quickly as they were led away by authorities.

San Bernardino police officers in SWAT gear secure the scene of a mass shooting.

San Bernardino police officers in SWAT gear secure the scene of a mass shooting. Photo: Los Angeles Times

Police secured the scene of the attack, which is about 90km east of Los Angeles. Local city and council buildings have been placed in lockdown, Police Chief Burguan said.

The Inland Regional Centre provides social services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

According to its Facebook page, the Inland Regional Centre’s mission is “to normalise the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by working to include them in the everyday routines and life rhythms of the community and by facilitating needed supports for them”.

Text messages

One man, Terry Pettit, told local station ABC 7 he received a text message from his daughter, who worked at the centre, saying she was hiding in an office.

The text message read: “Dad shooting at my work. Shot people. In office waiting for cops to catch him. Prayer for us.”

Mr Pettit broke down in tears as he read out the message at the scene.

“She said that someone had come in and started shooting and they ran into an office and she’s hiding with some other people,” Mr Pettit said.

“Our friend’s daughter is in there too and she texted, and so they’re both hiding. That’s all I know.”

She claimed that between 10 and 20 people had been shot.

An NBC reporter, Tony Shin, described encountering a man who had exchanged messages with his daughter inside the facility.

In the report, Mr Shin recounted the messages from the woman. “Dad, somebody is shooting inside our building,” she wrote. “I’m hiding in a closet.”

“Someone is shooting,” the father replied.

“I’m scared,” came the response.

Mr Shin said the woman had got out of the facility unharmed.

As the shooting took place staff members hid in offices and cupboards, he said.

In a short, frantic interview, one woman, Debbie Alvarado, told CBS her daughter Michelle had been shot in the side but was still hiding in the office building with others, playing dead.

“She said she was cold… she was shot in her side. They were pretending to be dead because these guys were still out there,” Ms Alvarado told a journalist as she rushed towards her car.

The San Bernardino Fire Department broke the news of the incident, reporting on Twitter they were responding to reports of a “20 victim shooting incident”.

At a Shell petrol station about a block from the shooting site, store manager Ana Fuentes said there was a flood of police activity in the area.

“There’s maybe like 150 cops going toward Hospitality Lane,” she said, as sirens echoed in the background.

She said she had had any instructions to stay inside but that customers coming in told her about the shootings.

A school around the corner had sealed its doors, with 150 children shut inside, London’s Telegraph reported. “All the gates are locked. We are doing everything we can to make sure that our kids are protected,” said a woman from inside the school.

Obama, Hillary Clinton weigh in

US President Barack Obama extended his condolences to the victims and their families and said it was clear there was a pattern of mass shootings in the United States that had no parallel anywhere else in the world. 

As he has done after other massacres in recent months, Mr Obama emphasised the need for tighter gun control and said bipartisan action was needed.

“We have a no-fly list where people can’t get on planes, but those same people who we don’t allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm and there’s nothing we can do to stop them,” he told CBS.

“That’s a law that needs to be changed.”

“We should never think this is just something that happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn’t happen, with the same frequency, in other countries.”

According to figures compiled by the Mass Shooting Tracker there have been at least 1042 mass shootings in the United States since 20 students and six staff were gunned down in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in December 2012.

Hillary Clinton said the country must take action on shootings as the crisis unfolded.

The latest incident is the 352nd mass shooting so far this year, according to the mass shooting tracker website, London’s Telegraph reported. The site charts any murder of more than three people killed by gunfire.

There have been at least 1042 mass shootings in the United States since 20 students and six staff were gunned down in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in December 2012.

– with Megan Levy, New York Times, AP

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