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Los Angeles Police briefly went on a modified tactical alert Wednesday in response to a mass shooting at a San Bernardino treatment center for people with developmental disabilities, while similar Southland facilities closed their doors for the day.
The Los Angeles Police Department, which was already on heightened alert due to the recent Paris terror attacks, did not immediately mobilize or change its posture following the 11 a.m. shooting at the Inland Regional Center that killed 14 people and injured 17 others.
By mid-afternoon, however, a modified tactical alert was declared, extending officers’ shifts, according to Officer Aareon Jefferson. He said LAPD captains and watch commanders are aware of the situation in San Bernardino and are responding with appropriate precautions. Under a full tactical alert, only priority calls would be answered.
The modified tactical alert was lifted shortly after 5:30 p.m., when two suspects in the shooting were confirmed to be dead.
Authorities identified the two dead shooters, a man and a woman, as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27. According to KCAL9 the two suspects were in a relationship and have a 6-month-old baby.
Farook was born in the U.S. and was an environmental specialist with San Bernardino County for five years, according to authorities.
“Based upon what we have seen and based upon how they were equipped there had to have been some degree of planning to this,” San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.
“I don’t think they just ran home, put on these types of tactical clothes, grabbed guns and came back on a spur of the moment thing.”
Farhan Khan, who said he was the husband of Farook’s sister, said his entire family is “shocked and very sorry for what happened.”
“We had no idea something (like) this could happen,” Khan said at an Anaheim news conference organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The council’s Executive Director Hussam Ayloush issued a statement on behalf of the group and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California condemning “this horrific and revolting attack” and offering “our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured.”
“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence,” Ayloush said.
In a precautionary move, the Harbor Regional Center in Torrance closed for the day. In a notice posted on the center’s website, officials said, “There is no reason to expected that there could be any similar activity at any other regional center but in an abundance of caution Harbor Regional Center is closed for today. We will monitor the news and our thoughts are with the staff and clients of IRC.”
The North Los Angeles County Regional Center also closed its locations in Van Nuys, Santa Clarita and Lancaster. The Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center also closed, with officials saying “news of such an event is incomprehensible.”
Details of the shooting were still sketchy and the motivations for the attack at the center at 1365 S. Waterman Ave. were not immediately known. Police and witnesses said the suspected assailants, Farook and Malik, walked into what was believed to be a holiday party in a conference room and started shooting.
Authorities initially said the shooting involved as many as three people who were possibly wearing body armor and armed with “long guns.” They fled the scene in a dark-colored SUV.
According to Burguan, the investigation led police to a home in Redlands, and as officers approached, Farook and Malik fled in a dark-colored SUV. A pursuit ensued, ending back in San Bernardino, where a gun battle broke out.
Farook and Malik were killed in the shootout, Burguan said. He said both suspects were armed with assault rifles and handguns.
A third person who fled from the shooting scene was detained after an extensive search, but Burguan said it was not immediately clear if that person was involved in the Inland Regional Center shooting.
One police officer was wounded in the shooting, apparently from a ricochet, but was not seriously injured.
As darkness fell, police were working to search the home in Redlands. Burguan noted that the suspects in the morning shooting left what appeared to be an explosive device at the Inland Regional Center and a bomb squad was still working to remove it, but the discovery was prompting officers to act with care as they approach the Redlands home.
Agents from the Los Angeles field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were sent to the scene of the morning shooting, according to the federal agency. Officials from the FBI were also dispatched.
“We are confirming that we are responding to assist San Bernardino authorities who have the lead on the investigation,” according to Laura Eimiller of the FBI.
Late this afternoon, an FBI spokesman said the shooting had not been determined to be an act of terrorism, but it was being explored as a possibility.
Agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the shooting.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the shooting. Gov. Jerry Brown was also briefed and “is closely monitoring this disturbing and ongoing situation unfolding in San Bernardino,” according to the governor’s Twitter page.
The city of Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center was activated “out of an abundance of caution” to monitor the situation, but city officials said there are “no known impacts from the shooting in the city.
“Our police and fire agencies are in contact with their counterparts in San Bernardino and are on standby to assist as needed,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“In addition, my Mayor’s Office Crisis Response Team, trained in trauma intervention and grief counseling, has offered its support to San Bernardino – – with a team of volunteers being made available to assist law enforcement agencies with outreach to affected family members, friends and the community.”
According to the facility’s Facebook page, the Inland Regional Center has nearly 670 staff members and provides services to more than 30,200 people with developmental disabilities and their families in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
“As an agency among agencies, Inland Regional Center coordinates with generic services to normalize the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by working to include them in the everyday routines and life rhythms of the community and by facilitating needed supports for them,” according to the center’s Facebook page.
As the shooting investigation unfolded, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a reminder that people can take steps to try to protect themselves in an active-shooter situation. The department has a website and video available with tips at activeshooter.lasd.org.
— MyNewsLA.com writers and Reuters
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