SAN BERNARDINO / UNITED STATES: One or more gunmen opened fire inside a center for the disabled in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding the same number before fleeing the scene, officials said.
Police were still hunting for the shooter or shooters, saying one to three possible suspects were being sought, and said it was not immediately clear what the motive was.
“The preliminary number we have right now is that there are 14 people that are deceased. And our count is another 14 people that have been taken to various hospitals for significant injuries,” San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters.
The FBI said that so far, it was unclear if the shooting was a “terrorist incident.”
“So far there’s one to three suspects that are still at large — nobody is in custody,” Olivia Bozek, deputy public affairs officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, told MSNBC.
Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away.
“It’s still an active scene,” Sergeant Vicki Cervantes of the San Bernardino Police told CNN. She said police had no information on explosives inside the building but that “until it’s safe in there, we can’t let anybody in.”
The shooting took place inside a packed conference room located within Inland Regional Center, which assists people with developmental disabilities.
Lavinia Johnson, the center’s executive director, told CNN that her staff were waiting to be evacuated from the site.
“Our staff are just patiently waiting right now. It was a very traumatic event for us. And we’re just waiting to be evacuated to another location.”
Witnesses quoted by local media said suspects were seen leaving the scene in a black SUV. Cervantes did not confirm that the shooter or shooters were wearing military-style body armor.
“Police officers are going through that building,” Cervantes said. “I’m not sure how much they’ve done searching it. They will remove all of the people in that building and sort through them, victims, witnesses, and they will take them to another facility.”
President Barack Obama decried what he called the “pattern” of mass shootings in the United States and reiterated his call for tougher gun controls.
“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” Obama told CBS News.
“There are some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted: “I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now.”
Brandon Hunt, who works at the center, said a banquet for county personnel was being held at the facility and that the shooting took place in an auditorium packed with at least 100 people.
He said some 500 people work in the building.
The city fire department said on Twitter it responded to initial “reports of 20 victim shooting incident.”
Television footage showed dozens of people coming out of the building with their hands raised and walking to a parking lot, ringed by heavily armed police.
A spokeswoman for Loma Linda University Medical Center said it was expecting an unknown number of patients from the shooting, according to CNN. She said the extent of the anticipated patients’ injuries is not clear.
Inland Regional Center serves thousands of people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, according to its Facebook page.
The center provides services to more than 30,200 people.
The shooting comes just days after a lone gunman killed three people during a standoff 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 have become a part of almost daily life.