Couple killed by police identified as suspects in mass shooting that left 14 dead, 17 injured

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Two suspects in a mass shooting at a county holiday party that left 14 people dead and 17 injured  Wednesday were fatally shot in a gun battle with police hours later.

The suspects -- a man and a woman -- had assault-style rifles and handguns on them, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters. They were dressed in what he called assault-style clothing. A police officer was also hurt in the shootout, but the injury is not life-threatening.

Burguan identified the suspects as Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Melik, 27.  He said Farook was a U.S. born citizen, but he said he did not know about Melik. He said they were either married or in a relationship, and had a residence in nearby Redlands, Calif.

The police chief confirmed that Farook worked for the San Bernardino County Health Department as an environmental health specialist and had worked there for five years. He said Farook had gone to the holiday party at the Inland Regional Center Wednesday morning but left "angry," according to one witness.

Police believe Farook and Melik returned to the center and opened fire. Burguan said they were armed with a .223 caliber assault rifle (dpms model 815, other TK), and both armed with semiautomatic handguns.

"I think that what we have seen and how they were equipped, there had to be some degree of planning in this," Burguan said. But he added that police still do not know the motive for the shooting. He added that authorities have not yet ruled out terrorism.

A third person was detained close to the scene of the shootout, but it is possible he is not connected to the shootings, Burguan said.

The police chief added that authorities were pretty confident that Farook and Melik were the only shooters.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations for Greater L.A., said at a news conference, "We unequivocally condemn the horrific act that happened today ... we stand in mourning and sadness for what happened."

Also at the news conference was Farhan Khan, brother-in-law of suspect Sayed Farook. He said he hasn't spoken to him in about about week.

"I am in shock" ... Why would he do something like this? I have absolutely no idea," Khan said.

He declined to answer any more questions, citing the ongoing investigation.

The family has not been able to track down  Farook or his wife since Wednesday morning, said Ayloush.

ATF tells CNN that one of the four guns used in the shooting were legally purchased and traced back to someone believed to be connected with the shooting. The agency would not disclose the name of the purchaser.

Earlier, police said they were hunting as many as three suspects who had fled in a black SUV. Burguan said that information they obtained after the mass shooting took them to a residence in Redlands, Calif. When officers got there, a black SUV left with two suspects inside. That led to a police pursuit and the shootout.

The residential area where the shootout occurred is not far from the Inland Regional Center, where 14 people were killed Wednesday morning.

The San Bernardino  mass shooting became the deadliest in the United States since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, when 26 people were killed, including 20 children.

No motive was known for the shooting.

The FBI's David Bowdich, of the Los Angeles office, said there is the possibility of terrorism, but they are "not ready to go down that road yet." The Associated Press said a law enforcement official told the agency that a workplace dispute is being investigated as a possible motive in the mass shooting.

Meanwhile, authorities on Wednesday night finished clearing the three buildings at the Inland Regional Center and examining the conference center where the initial shootings occurred.

Mass 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.

Suspect identified

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.


Gov. Jay Inslee issued the following statement about the California shooting: “Many details about today’s massacre in San Bernardino are still unknown, but this kind of tragedy has become all too familiar. These tragedies always hit hard whether it’s a city away, two states or even half a world away. Trudi and I, along with all Washingtonians, send our thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims and the San Bernardino community.”

San Bernardino is a city of just over 200,000 people located 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

This is a developing story and will be updated.