SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) – In the chaotic aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings, as the wounded bled from gunshots, others lay dead and police searched for multiple killers, an officer relayed the name of a suspect to dispatchers.
The officer identified Syed Rizwan Farook, a co-worker of most of those shot, as a possible suspect because he had left a work meeting “out of the blue” 20 minutes before the shooting and matched the description of a gunman, according to audio of dispatch recordings.
“He seemed nervous,” the unnamed officer reported in an edited selection of recordings posted by The Press-Enterprise newspaper of Riverside.
Farook and his wife carried out the attack that killed 14 people and wounded 21 others Wednesday. The couple, who the FBI said had become radicalized, died about four hours later in a firefight with officers in this city an hour east of Los Angeles.
The shooting occurred at the Inland Regional Center, a social services agency, where the county Department of Public Health was renting the auditorium for an annual meeting.
Trudy Raymundo, director of the department, was preparing to make a presentation when she heard gunfire outside. A gunman in a black ski mask and dressed all in black then burst through the door and started shooting.
Raymundo dropped to the floor and huddled under a table with other colleagues as bullets sprayed the room that had been decked out with a Christmas tree, ornaments and other seasonal decor.
“It’s constant shots and constant firing, and all you can think of is, ‘Why don’t they stop?'” Raymundo said Monday in her first public comments since the slaughter. “It was just endless.”
County health employees had trained for an active-shooter scenario a year earlier in the same room.
“Everyone was trying to be quiet and not draw attention to themselves as they were trained to do, to try to find as much protection as you can,” said Corwin Porter, assistant director of the department. “Unfortunately the room just didn’t provide a whole lot of protection.”
Family members of witnesses said the initial gunfire lasted about 30 seconds and then the shooters reloaded and fired again before fleeing without saying a word.
Raymundo said she saw one man enter the room, but that two left.
Dispatch recordings reveal the back-and-forth from officers in the field and calm-talking dispatchers, including some of the confusion and misinformation that was relayed as they tried to figure out how many suspects were involved and whether they were still at the Inland Regional Center.
“We do not know if we still have an active shooter,” one of the first officers on the scene reported. “We supposedly have two down inside. We’ll be making entry.”
A dispatcher put out the call: “San Bernardino Police Department has an active shooter. … They’re asking for all units that are available.”
Nearly six minutes into the recordings, an officer identifying himself as Ida 9 reported Farook’s name.
He said the suspect “left out of the blue and, um, then 20 minutes later the shooting occurred.”
Witnesses reported seeing a pair of gunmen wearing ski-type masks and vests, an officer said.
A dispatcher later advised all units that three suspects wearing black masks and, possibly, tactical vests, fled in a black SUV with assault rifles.
At some point, a man’s voice reported a dozen “DOAs,” using the jargon for dead on arrival, and said others had been moved to a treatment area.
That is followed by chatter about a bomb that shooters left behind.
A lieutenant then tells all sheriff’s deputies and police officers to get out of the building.
“Bomb arson has seen the device,” someone said. “It is out of the norms. They are going to explode it through robotic means. They have pulled out of the building as well.”
The recordings pick up about four hours later as a short chase ends in a shootout between the couple and nearly two dozen officers.
Shots were being fired out the back window of the SUV, and a dispatcher reported that officers were taking fire.
A helicopter pilot reported that his partner was moving to the backseat of the chopper, armed with an M4 rifle.
Gunfire can be heard in the transmissions.
“Can see one guy down,” an officer reported. “There’s one guy in the back of a car.”
In the background, a man can be heard yelling, “Hold your fire, hold your fire.”
Police later said the couple fired off 76 rounds in the shootout, but the two were outgunned by officers, who shot 380 rounds.