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Southern California attack: 14 killed; 2 suspects dead after SUV chase, third person detained

The shooting occurred inside a social services facility in San Bernardino, located 60 miles east of Los Angeles. One of the suspects was a county health inspector.

By Doug G. Ware and Shawn Price
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Southern California attack: 14 killed; 2 suspects dead after SUV chase, third person detained
Police block streets as they search for three gunmen who killed at least 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday. The gunmen opened fire at the Inland Regional Center, a social development center that serves people with development disabilities. Photo by Jim Ruyman/UPI | License Photo

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Police on Wednesday afternoon engaged in a high-speed chase and gun battle with suspects believed to have been involved in an earlier attack on a social services facility in Southern California that left 14 dead, law enforcement officials said.

Hours after the shootings, authorities spotted a dark-colored SUV not far from the original crime scene and attempted to detain those inside. Following a high-speed chase, two suspects -- a man and a woman -- were shot, NBC News reported, citing law enforcement officials.

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Those suspects died at the scene, officials said, but a third person fled into a residential neighborhood, where police brought in a K-9 unit and conducted a house to house search. That person was ultimately taken into custody but it wasn't clear whether they were connected to the San Bernardino attack, police said.

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Investigators had been looking for a dark-colored SUV that eyewitnesses said was the getaway vehicle for gunmen at the Inland Regional Center -- a developmental services complex -- immediately after the suspects opened fire at a holiday party, killing 14 and injuring 17. The pursuit began after police attempted to investigate a house in nearby Redlands.

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The two suspects killed by police were later identified as Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27. The third suspect has not been identified.

Farook was a U.S. citizen and health inspector with San Bernardino County's health department for five years. He was described as quiet and polite by fellow employees.

Co-workers said Farook, a devout Muslim, had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned married to Malik, whom he'd met online. The couple also had a baby. When the pair were killed by police in Wednesday's shootout, they each had a .223-caliber DPMS Model A15 or Smith and Wesson M&P15 assault rifle and a semiautomatic handgun, at least two of which were bought legally in the United States.

"I have no idea why he would he do something like this. I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself," said Farhan Khan, Farook's brother-in-law.

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Police said Farook was with colleagues earlier in the day at a holiday party at the center, then left angrily shortly before the shooting began at about 11 a.m. local time.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a news conference that up to three gunmen entered the facility and began shooting people inside.

"Upwards of 14 people that are dead and upwards of 14 people who are wounded," Burguan said, also noting that hundreds of people inside the facility escaped unharmed. "These people came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission."

A police representative later updated the injured toll to 17 -- 10 of whom they said were critically wounded.

An FBI representative said at the news conference that investigators were unsure whether the shootings are terror-related. The Los Angeles Times reported that at least one of the suspects is a U.S. citizen.

One report said the suspect or suspects were heavily armed and wore tactical body armor, although San Bernardino police did not immediately confirm that detail.

One source told CNN the shooting occurred in a conference center at the facility.

The bomb squad removed three devices from the center that Burguan described as "leaning a little bit more toward a pipe bomb type design."

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Authorities urged residents to stay away from the scene as they attend to the injured and search for suspects. Several schools nearby were placed on lockdown.

SWAT team members combed the area searching for perpetrators. Multiple agencies -- including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the California Highway Patrol -- assisted local authorities in the case, officials said.

Law enforcement officials also interviewed everyone in the immediate vicinity of the scene and prevented them from leaving the perimeter in the event a suspect was among them.

The San Bernardino Board of Supervisors convened an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to settle on a course of action to handle the mass shooting, NBC Los Angeles reported.

The Inland Regional Center, a private nonprofit facility, aids persons with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino and nearby Riverside County.

"This is wrong. Why would they target an agency that deals with helping handicapped people?" asked one man who has a relative who is employed at the complex.

"My prayers are with the victims, families and survivors of this horrific attack," Rep. Pete Aguilar, San Bernardino's federal representative, said. "My heart aches that the out-of-control gun violence epidemic has come to our community."

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Other politicians also responded to the shootings with shock and sadness -- and in some cases, frustration.

"What more evidence do you need that we need to step it up as it relates to gun safety in this state?" Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "It is just unacceptable what is going on in this country. And California needs to lead the way."

President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly advocated stricter gun laws, was briefed on the shooting Wednesday afternoon -- as was Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

"I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now," Clinton tweeted.

"Enough is enough," Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley tweeted. "It's time to stand up to the NRA and enact meaningful gun safety laws."

"California shooting looks very bad," GOP candidate Donald Trump tweeted. "Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!"

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