At least 14 people died in a shooting rampage Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, the second mass attack in the U.S. in less than a week.
The violence, which happened about 11 a.m. local time, took place in the Inland Regional Center, which serves people with developmental disabilities. As many as three people opened fire using long guns, and were still at large, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said in a news conference, and more than a dozen were wounded.
FBI Los Angeles Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich said officials didn’t yet know whether the incident in the city, which is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, was terrorism.
“These were people who came prepared,” Burguan said. “They had long guns, not handguns.”
“They came prepared to do what they did, as if on a mission.”
Police were searching for a black SUV that fled the scene, Burguan said. Officers detonated a device inside the building using a robot, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing unnamed federal law-enforcement agents.
‘Pray for Us’
Terry Petit’s daughter works at the center, and she texted him that she was hiding in the building after hearing gunshots, the Associated Press reported. Petit choked back tears as he read the texts for reporters outside the center: “People shot. In the office waiting for cops. Pray for us.”
Marcos Aguilera’s wife was in the building when the gunfire erupted, the wire service reported. He said a shooter entered the building next to his wife’s office and opened fire.
“They locked themselves in her office. They seen bodies on the floor,” Aguilera told KABC-TV, adding that his wife escaped unharmed.
The chief executive officer of the Inland center, Marybeth Feild, said the focus was on a building that houses at least 25 employees as well as a library and conference center, according to the Associated Press.
Just Tuesday, the center posted on Twitter a video of their holiday party, which shows workers dancing with the disabled, many of them in wheelchairs, to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.”
Sandy Bonilla, a director at the Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire, a charter school a block from the shooting, said it was on lockdown and the area looked like a battle zone.
The shooting came as authorities continue to probe the motivations of Robert Dear, the 57-year-old who is in custody after the Friday shooting of three and wounding of nine in a clinic run by the Planned Parenthood women’s health group in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn’t happen with the same frequency in other countries,” President Barack Obama told CBS on Wednesday.
Obama has spoken at least 15 times following mass shootings in the U.S.
“We should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal,” he told CBS.
San Bernardino, a city of about 215,000 people, is a former factory town set at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains that’s fallen on hard times. It serves as a warehousing and logistics center for goods shipped to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
It has long been one of the most dangerous communities of its size. Things have gotten only worse after the city in August 2012 declared bankruptcy. In February, the police force had shrunk to 230 officers from more than 350. Homicides surged to 46 in 2013 from 32 in 2009.