San Bernardino County Sheriff's SWAT team members ride an armored vehicle near the shooting. Reuters photo
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s SWAT team members ride an armored vehicle near the shooting. Reuters photo

A report into last year’s shooting rampage by a husband and wife in San Bernardino reveals how three county workers battled to stop the shooters as they sprayed bullets into a conference room full of their colleagues.

The report released on Friday describes the carnage found by rescue workers after Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire during a Dec. 2 party and training session at the Inland Regional Center for San Bernardino County health workers, killing 14 people and wounding 24 others.

Authorities have said the couple — who were killed by police during a shootout — were inspired by Islamist militancy, and have called it the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The 141-page document by the Police Foundation describes how three male county workers “tried to stop the shooters by rushing one of the gunmen but all three were shot.” It did not say if the three men were among the 14 killed in the assault.

The dispatch also contains new details about the horrific scene discovered by first responders when they entered the conference room.

“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,” it said.

It revealed that the gunmen had left three pipe bombs that they planned to detonate remotely as emergency workers cared for the wounded.

“It is a frequent practice used in terrorist incidents,” the report said. The devices were detonated by a bomb squad.

Friday’s report concluded that the first response by police to the shooting was “exemplary” and likely saved lives.

“First responders acted with courage and discipline – using their training and skills to act quickly and decisively in a horrifying situation,” it said.

However, the review highlighted the challenges faced by first responders and investigators from different agencies, including overlapping responsibilities and different protocols in dealing with hundreds of witnesses and three different crime scenes.

“It is imperative to examine, analyze and learn from police-involved critical incidents in an effort to continually improve. Certainly, that is true of this incident,” wrote Jim Bueermann, the president of the foundation, in a letter introducing the report.

— Reuters

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.