02 December 2015

Another Day, Another American Massacre

What Happened?

Fourteen victims were killed and seventeen victims were injured (including one police officer) in a mass shooting at a San Bernadino regional center for the developmentally disabled in an area where an outside organization was renting a conference room for a County Health Department luncheon.

According to the New York Times:
[T]he police engaged in a shootout in a nearby suburban neighborhood in which two suspects were killed, officials said. A third person who was seen running away has been detained, officials said, but they said they do not know the extent of his involvement, if any. Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino police said at a news conference that the dead suspects — one man and one woman — were armed with several weapons, including assault-style weapons and handguns.

The police came across the suspects after an officer went to the home of one suspect and from there followed an S.U.V. similar to the one reported at the earlier shooting. According to reports, less than two miles from the original shooting, the officer tried to engage with the people in the S.U.V., who put up a fight. It was unclear what happened during that initial exchange, but dozens of heavily armed police in tactical gear quickly descended on the scene. One officer was injured in the shootout.
Other reports have stated that the suspects were masked, wore body armor, were armed with assault rifles and arrived and left in a black SUV getaway car that was stopped by police.  At least one pipe bomb was left at the scene and defused by the bomb squad.

No suspect names have been released, nor has there been any detailed accounting of who was a victim in the attack yet.  But, police seem to know who the dead dead suspects were, which one of them was a former employee of the health department, and where at least one of the suspects lived. The odds seem good that they know or strongly suspect the identity of the third suspect.

It isn't clear if earlier reports of a suspect being taken into custody were inaccurate, or if that suspect later died in custody.  It also isn't clear if the suspect who is still on the run was injured in the shootout with police.


It appears that the attack was brought as a revenge or retaliation attack against health department employees who were colleagues of one of the three shooters (via the BBC):
"Investigators believe there were three gunmen and one of them had worked at the facility and recently had a dispute with fellow employees, according to law enforcement officials," the New York Times reports, adding a witness said despite a face covering, one sounded and appeared very similar to employee who had left earlier.
The dispute may have arisen on short notice earlier that day and been perpetrated in the heat of the moment to some extent:
Chief Burguan said there had been a meeting or holiday party at the facility before the shooting, during which there was “some type dispute.”
The possibility that this was a terrorist attack in furtherance of a political or religious cause, that this was part of an international plot, that it was some sort of robbery, or that it was a sudden mental health breakdown all seem to be ruled out.  Instead, this appears to have been a premeditated plan to kill people with whom an employee or former employee of the county health department had a dispute.

The nature of the employee dispute and the background of the former employee suspect are unclear. The relationship of the disgruntled employee who was an attacker to the other two participants also remains unclear.


This mass shooting is highly atypical.  Most involve a single male shooter who doesn't flee the scene of the crime.

Most involved a single individual having a mental breakdown intending to die in the act, or the killing of the members of a family by a family member.  Other mass killings, especially those involving groups of shooters, are frequently terrorist attacks to advance a political or religious cause.

This shooting was most similar to "criminal" mass shootings, which often involve robberies or kidnappings or disputes between drug gangs, but economic or gang crime does not appear to have involved in this case, either.  But, "criminal" mass shootings are much more likely to involve multiple shooters and to involve an attempted escape by the suspects as this episode did.

This shooting was also extremely unusual in involving a woman as an active shooter.  Even when women perpetrate mass killings, globally, it is far more common for a woman to be a suicide bomber or to be killing her family members.

Clearly, the attack was premeditated and involved some kind of group planning, but it is hard to know how much planning went into the attack other than the purchase of supplies for the attack and some idea that they would try to make a quick get away.

UPDATE December 6, 2015:  Apparently, the wife in the husband-wife pair posted a dedication of the massacre to ISIS on Facebook from her smart phone on the way over, which pretty much makes it a terrorist attack, albeit what seems to have been an impulsive one.


This incident distracted attention from an otherwise headline making scene near Sloan's Lake in Denver, Colorado where there was a shootout between a suspect and police trying to apprehend him as he tried to get away that left a police officer shot and wounded and the suspect dead.

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