A report released Friday contains chilling new details of the December assault by a husband and wife in San Bernardino, Calif. — the third deadliest attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001 — that left 14 people dead and 22 others seriously injured.
Much of the material in the new study by the Police Foundation and the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has been previously reported by news organizations. But the 135-page report does offer new insight into law enforcement’s response and the frenzied gun battle four hours later, when Syed Rizwan Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed by police.
The review found that some of the victims and witnesses had had active shooter training in the very room where they were shot and at first thought it was another training exercise when the terrorists burst in at 10:59 a.m. Dec. 2.
The report describes in graphic detail what first responders found when they entered the Inland Regional Center room, already decorated for the Christmas holiday.
“The four officers stared into the conference room,” the report says. “It looked like a bomb had gone off. Bodies were strewn across the floor. Many had devastating wounds. Blood was everywhere. The smell of gunpowder filled their nostrils, and the sprinklers sounded like they were hissing.”
In the chaos, a round hit a fire sprinkler pipe, and watered poured from the ceiling.
The officers, hewing to their training, kept searching for the killers even as the wounded grabbed their legs: “It was the worst thing imaginable — some people were quiet, hiding, others were screaming or dying, grabbing at your legs because they wanted us to get them out, but our job at the moment was to keep going.”
The deluge from the sprinklers in the conference room made it impossible for a medic to use traditional triage tags on the injured, so the medic used tape and wrote each person’s status on the tape. Initially, the wounded were carried to a spot right outside the building, but that was judged too close to an active and dangerous crime scene. They were then carried — many soaking wet and slippery — across the street to a golf course. Ultimately, 22 people, many of them critically injured, were taken to a hospital within 57 minutes of the shooting, and all survived.