DEVELOPING: Multiple people were reportedly killed Wednesday at a San Bernardino, Calif., facility for treating the developmentally disabled, and police were hunting three suspects who may have escaped in an SUV.
As many as 30 hostages were seen coming out of the building where the event occurred minutes after the first call went in to police around 11 a.m. local time. Witnesses said three men in masks and body armor stormed the crowded building and opened fire, with one shooting people in a conference room, according to reports. Local Fox affiliate KTTV initially reported that at least 12 fatalities may have occurred inside the building, which was surrounded by authorities, just before noon local time. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were responding to the scene, some 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
An area resident said a woman trapped inside called her father and asked him to “pray for us.” Multiple reports of a dozen fatalities could not be confirmed. San Bernardino Sun reporter Beatriz Valenzuela told Fox News she saw at least two people dead and several more injured.
The attack occurred inside the Inland Regional Center, one of 21 facilities serving people with developmental disabilities run by the state, said Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services. The social services agency administers, authorizes and pays for assistance to people with disabilities such as autism and mental retardation. On an average day, doctors at the regional centers would be evaluating toddlers whose parents have concerns and case workers meeting with developmentally disabled adults.
The San Bernardino facility consists of three buildings, and employs approximately 600 workers.
Police were searching for a black GMC Yukon, and witnesses reported seeing one nearby, possibly with a mask-wearing occupant. Glenn Willwerth, who was near enough to the scene to hear shots being fired, told Fox News he saw the black SUV leaving afterward, driving slowly and deliberately. He said he saw people frantically pouring out of the building, some ducking behind cars. Another witness, Jim Estrada, told Fox News he saw 40 or 50 people stream out of the building with their hands up as emergency responders flooded the scene.
Authorities ordered news choppers to clear the area as they hunted the SUV and continued efforts to clear the complex.
Police were using a robot to search the building for possible explosives, even as they sought the gunmen. The Los Angeles Times reported that a device found inside was detonated, but it was not clear if it was a bomb. It was not clear if any or all of the suspects had escaped, but police were seeking a black SUV. Sources told Fox authorities know the identity of at least one of the gunmen.
Witnesses described passing bodies on the ground as they fled, but it was not clear if, or how many, people were killed. A makeshift triage center was set up outside the facility. A local NBC videographer reported there were not enough ambulances to transport victims, and that people were using pickup trucks to carry victims to triage areas.
President Obama was briefed on the situation by his Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and asked to be updated on the situation as it develops.
The shooting came less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.