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Couple left baby with relatives before shooting rampage that claimed 14 lives

The pair were killed in a shootout with police hours after they carried out their precision assault.

California Shootings Source: James Quigg/The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP

AUTHORITIES IN CALIFORNIA are trying to learn why a couple left behind their infant daughter and carried out a shooting rampage that left 14 people dead and seriously wounded more than a dozen others in one of the nation’s worst mass shootings.

The pair were killed in a shootout with police hours after they carried out their precision assault.

The possible motive for the attack included workplace violence or terrorism.

Yesterday’s shooting happened at a social services centre for the disabled where the suspect’s colleagues with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health were renting space for a celebration.

It was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since the attack at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago that left 26 children and adults dead.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan identified one dead suspect as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, the other as Tashfeen Malik, 27, his wife or fiancee.

Burguan said Farook was born in the United States; the chief said he did not know Malik’s background.

California Shootings Armored vehicles surround an SUV following a shootout. Source: KTTV via AP

The attackers invaded the Inland Regional Center about 60 miles east of Los Angeles at around 11am (local time), opening fire in a conference area where county health officials were having an employee banquet, said Marybeth Feild, president and CEO of the nonprofit centre.

“They came prepared to do what they did, as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said.

Farook attended the event before leaving — and returning to kill.

Co-worker Patrick Baccari said he was sitting at the same table as Farook, who suddenly disappeared, leaving his coat on his chair.

Baccari said when the shooting started, he sought refuge in a bathroom and suffered minor wounds from shrapnel slicing through the wall.

Shooter was ‘reserved’

Baccari described Farook as reserved and said he showed no signs of unusual behavior. Earlier this year he traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a wife, later growing a beard, Baccari said.

The FBI is investigating several possible motives, including workplace violence and terrorism, according to David Bowdich, assistant director of the bureau’s Los Angeles office.

He did not elaborate.

Source: PBS NewsHour/YouTube

Farook was a restaurant inspector for the health department, according to public records.

Police chief Burguan said he had been a county employee for five years.

The couple dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with relatives yesterday morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said after talking with family.

Farhan Khan, who is married to Farook’s sister, told reporters he last spoke to his brother-in-law about a week ago.

He said he was in shock, condemned the violence, and had “absolutely no idea why he would do this”.

SUV

About four hours after the morning carnage, police hunting for the killers riddled a black SUV with gunfire in a shootout 2 miles from the social services centre in this Southern California city of 214,000 people.

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Farook and Malik were found with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, and were wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, authorities said.

Television news helicopters captured the aftermath, as officers slowly approached the mangled SUV.

California Shootings Deputies and officers from several law enforcement agencies escort people from the building and surrounding buildings at the site of the mass shooting Source: James Quigg/The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP

That the violence happened at a place dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities — even if they were not targeted — made it even harder for some to comprehend.

“These are all disabled kids, very disabled,” said Sherry Esquerra, who was searching for her daughter and son-in-law, both of whom work at the centre.

“She gets all the services she possibly could for these kids. So I just don’t understand why somebody would come in and start shooting.”

According to its web page, the centre has a client base of more than 30,000 people and their families. It is a privately run nonprofit, the largest of its kind in California with about 670 employees.

FBI agents and other law enforcement authorities converged on the centre and searched room to room for the attackers. Triage units were set up outside, and people were wheeled away on stretchers.

Seventeen people were wounded, according to authorities. Ten were hospitalised in critical condition, and three were in serious condition, Fire Chief Tom Hannemann said.

Source: Townhall Media/YouTube

President Barack Obama urged the country to take steps to reduce mass shootings, including stricter gun laws and stronger background checks.

“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” Obama told CBS.

Federal authorities said that the two assault rifles and two handguns used in the violence were purchased legally, but they haven’t said how and when they got into the hands of the two shooters.

Read: Two San Bernardino attackers identified, 14 confirmed dead in shooting >

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