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Police Describe Active Crime Scene After Shooting In San Bernardino, Calif.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We are still waiting for a press conference by the police in San Bernardino, California, where earlier today, 14 people were killed and 17 people were wounded in a mass shooting at a center for people with developmental disabilities. Joining me now is Phil Ewing. He is NPR's national security editor. Hi, Phil.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So let's run down what we know so far while we're waiting for the police to come and give us the latest. When did this happen today?

EWING: Sure. This took place at around 11 a.m. local time at this area in San Bernardino. We know that a fire alarm went off in an area where some meeting was taking place at a conference center that's attached to this facility. And then very soon after that, these shootings began that you described that wound up with 14 people killed and at least 17 hurt.

MCEVERS: Right. And the police had said that at least three gunmen were suspected to have committed this shooting. What do we know about those suspects at this point?

EWING: Well, we don't know very much about them. What we understand from reports locally is that they evidently took off from the scene in a black SUV, which has become very familiar on cable news since then, and tried to escape from authorities. And at some point, they were either spotted or the cops caught up with them. And then there was some kind of gunfight between these individuals and the police. We understand from local authorities that two of them were in this car. They have been dealt with, in the words of the local police departments. And we don't know exactly what that means, but we also understand that there may be a third suspect on the loose in southern California. And we expect to learn more about that at this press conference you described that's supposed to start there soon.

MCEVERS: That's right. Authorities said it is still an active, fluid scene. Of course, watching the monitors, you can see heavily armed military vehicles patrolling around the San Bernardino area. I, of course, will learn more, like you said, from the police. They did say that one of these suspects was injured. There seem to be many police and federal officials on the scene. What does that tell us, if anything, about what kind of incident this was?

EWING: Well, so far from what we know, it suggests just the scale of the response to this incident. So this isn't just the local police department, the county sheriff's office, but also the FBI, the ATF - that's the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - and other officials coming together just because the number of people involved in terms of victims and the scale of territory at threat here potentially, because these guys were on the loose, require that type of response. We don't know enough about the incident, about the individuals involved, their motivation, et cetera, to reach any other conclusions at this time, at least in terms of a terrorist attack or any other type of characterization of the incident.

MCEVERS: Right. We don't know anything about their motivation, but we do know a few things - right? - about the kind of weapons they were carrying and perhaps about the kinds of clothing that they were wearing, yes?

EWING: Yeah, that's right. Police officials locally have said these guys apparently showed up with assault rifles. They had body armor. They may have worn ski masks. And so they showed up to this incident ready for action. They knew what they were doing, in the words of the local police chief. They had great intention about launching this attack. What we don't know about is why or who they were.

MCEVERS: And so what else do we know about this center in San Bernardino? What kind of place is it? How many people were there? Who works there?

EWING: Well, it's a very large facility by all appearances. It helps some 30,000 people a year in San Bernardino County, according to its website. And there were many hundreds of people working there at the time. It's a facility that helps administer programs for people with developmental disabilities, from what we understand. And there's also a larger kind of office and conference complex attached to it. And that's where this gathering was taking place from initial reports, where that was the focus of this attack earlier today.

MCEVERS: That's right. And so, you know, we've seen in previous, you know, shootings like this - there have been several - that sometimes, the number of dead and the number of wounded tends to change. I mean, do you feel like at this point we're still not certain about these numbers right now?

EWING: Well, the latest word we have from local officials is that number of people, sadly, who was killed, 14, has been staying the same. The number of victims who were injured has increased from 14 to 17, but they have been very careful - local law enforcement officials - to say, as you just did, it's very early in this investigation. They're still looking into what happened. They're still looking into securing this facility, going through and making sure there's no more victims there, no more explosive devices, potentially, or other hazardous things like that. And so it's very fluid. We're still learning a lot about exactly what happened there.

MCEVERS: All right. That is NPR's national security editor, Phil Ewing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.