Officer Describes ‘Surreal’ Scene|at San Bernardino Massacre

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A responding officer Thursday evening described the “surreal” carnage he witnessed after Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, but the motive for the attack remains unclear.
     San Bernardino Police Department Commander Mike Madden was the first officer to arrive at the scene. He described the horrific and surreal scene that he encountered when he entered the social services building and came to the entrance of the conference room where 70 to 80 guests had been present for a county health department holiday party.
     “Although we’re trained for it, it’s something that you’re never actually prepared for,” an emotional Madden said. “This was actually happening. This was a real event.”
     Madden said his goal was to enter the building and engage an “active shooter,” and said that he wanted to prevent more fatalities.
     The commander was part of four-member tactical team that entered the building. When they reached the east side of the building and entered, Madden said it was “clear that the reports were true.”
     “There were victims that were obviously deceased outside the conference room,” Madden said.
     When they entered the conference room “the situation was surreal,” he said.
     “It was unspeakable the carnage that we were seeing,” Madden said, describing the “pure panic” on the faces of those who had survived the attack.
     The team went farther into the building and had to pass people they knew were in need of help because they wanted to locate the shooters, he said.
     More tactical teams arrived and searched the building. Madden said he could smell fresh gunpowder, making him believe that there were still active shooters. He said the “moans and the wails” in the room and fire sprinklers going off added to the sense of chaos.
     The “panic was obvious and apparent,” Madden said.
     Authorities said at the press conference that out of 91 invited guests to the party, 75 to 80 people attended. Of the 21 injured, 18 were county employees and 12 of the 14 killed were county employees, officials said.
     “We have to be on our guard. We can’t take anything for granted,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at the press conference. “We are going to go as far as we have to to make sure that public safety is protected.”
     Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, killed 14 and injured 21 others in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago.
     The suspects died after police tailed their rented black SUV from their apartment and then engaged in a dramatic shootout in a residential neighborhood.
     Afterward, an armored truck could be seen approaching the bullet-riddled SUV with an extended, armored, forward platform from which officers used a large hook to pull a woman’s body from the cab. Her companion’s body was lying in the road next to the SUV, with his assault rifle nearby.
     The couple, who were dressed in tactical clothing, fired 76 rounds at police during the final confrontation while officers fired 360 rounds. The couple had amassed 2,500 assault rifle rounds, 2,000 9 mm rounds and 12 pipe bombs at their Redlands home.
     They left a remote-controlled bomb at the center.
     “It’s entirely possible they planned other attacks,” Chief Jarrod Burguan has said.
     Intelligence officials told the Associated Press and CNN that Farook had made contact with extremists that were under surveillance through social media. But other evidence suggests the attacked was motivated by a mix of terrorism and workplace violence.
     President Barack Obama said Thursday that it’s possible Farook was a terrorist but added, “It’s also possible that this was workplace-related.”
     He added, “Until the FBI’s been able to conduct what will be a large number of interviews, until we understand what the workplace relationship between the individuals and his superiors, because he worked with the organization where this terrible shooting took place, until all the social media and electronic information has been [sorted].”
     Burguan has stated that Farook and Malik “came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission.”
     Farook, an environmental inspector with the San Bernardino County Health Department, attended a holiday party at the social services center on Wednesday. He left after an alleged dispute and returned with his wife, two .223-caliber assault rifles, two handguns, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition and three pipe bombs.
     Before the attack, the couple had left their 6-month-old daughter with her grandmother, telling her they had a doctor’s appointment, according to Hussam Ayloush, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.
     David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI office in Los Angeles, said Thursday that Farook has traveled overseas and that when he returned to the U.S. with Malik in July 2014, she was traveling on a K-1 visa on a Pakistani passport.
     Known as a fiance visa, the K-1 allows foreign nationals to come to the states to marry U.S. citizens. She was granted a conditional green card in July 2015.
     Farook met Malik during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2013.
     Authorities also said there is mounting evidence that Farook was in contact with extremists and that he posted Jihadist material on social media websites.
     But Bowdich said it’s too early to establish a motive.
     “We’re working on that,” he said, adding, “It would be irresponsible of me, and way too easy, for me to speculate.”
     Authorities say Farook was born in Illinois and is of Pakistani heritage. Five years ago, Farook described himself in a misspelled profile on iMilap.com as: “religios but modern family of 4, 2 girls 2 boys I work for county as health, safety and envorimental inspector. Enjoy working on vintage and modern cars, read religios books, enjoy eating out sometimes travel and just hang out in back yard doing target practice with younger sister and friends.”
     He was also registered on Dubaimatrimonial.com, a dating site that is the “first and only legal marriage service provider in United Arab Emirates,” according to the Khalleej Times in Dubai.
     On another dating site, Dubaimatrimonial.com, he described himself as being from Karachi, Pakistan.
     Farook graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, with a degree in environmental health in 2009.
     Farook inspected restaurants, bakeries and public swimming pools for the county health department, according to inspection reports on the agency’s website.
     On a $70,000-a-year salary he checked chlorine levels, screened hand-washing facilities and maked sure food surfaces were clean. He was registered as an environmental health specialist with the California Department of Public Health, state records indicate.
     His most recent inspection report, dated October 1, was of a Mexican restaurant in Rialto, California.
     On Thursday, the San Bernardino County Coroner released the names of the people killed during Wednesday’s massacre.
     Obama said he believes it should just be left to law enforcement to deal with mass shootings.
     “I do think that as the investigation goes forward it’s going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do,” he said. “So that when individuals decide they want to do somebody harm to make it a little harder for them to do it. Because right now it’s just too easy.”
     That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who said, “Each time I see breaking news of yet another mass shooting, I feel it in the pit of my stomach.”
     She added, “Congress can’t stop every shooting, but we can help reduce their frequency.”
     ACLU SoCal executive director Hector Villagra extended his condolences but cautioned against attributing the actions of the shooters to “an entire community.”
     “While the motives that led to the tragic events that claimed 14 lives are not yet known, we do know that Americans from diverse communities are in mourning today,” Villagra said. “Whatever the motives are determined to be, we mustn’t attribute the actions or characteristics of two individuals to an entire community.”

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