(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) — First responders to the San Bernardino shooting described on Tuesday the chaos and carnage they saw when they arrived at the scene.
More than 300 officers from several local agencies responded to the scene last Wednesday, San Bernardino County Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said this evening.
The first group of officers to enter the building knew they wouldn’t have cover, said Lt. Mike Madden of the San Bernardino Police Department, who was among the first on the scene.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult, walking up to those doors,” Madden said. “But we knew we had to get in and save them.”
When more officers arrived to the scene, Madden said he assembled a team to enter the building.
“My goal was to assemble a team and enter into the building to address the active shooter,” he said last Thursday. “We wanted to stop any further innocent people from getting injured and possibly killed.”
Madden referred to what he saw in the conference room as “surreal” and “unspeakable carnage.” He described the survivors as having “pure panic” on their faces.
Det. Brian Lewis said their training prepared them for what to expect. The building was noisy due to the alarms and sprinklers going off and visibility was poor from the heavy gun smoke, Lewis said. Though he saw victims lying on the ground, training called for him and the other officers to canvass the building for the shooters first.
“It felt odd to step past them, knowing there were gunmen inside,” he said.
Det. Brian Murphy said he felt “a ton of sorrow” when he first saw the victims.
“Some people were laying there. Some people were crying. Some people were screaming,” he said.
Officers from the Fontana Police Department were the second team on the scene. They happened to be in the area when they heard Madden mention the active shooter situation on the radio, Corporal Scott Snyder said.
“My body went numb,” he said of seeing the victims on the ground. “It was overwhelming and surreal.”
Det. George Lozano was seen on video telling evacuees, “I’ll take a bullet for you.” He described the woman, who was holding an 8-year-old boy, as so terrified she was “shaking like a leaf.”
“[It was] nothing short of what any other person in law enforcement would do,” the 15-year veteran of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said. “I don’t feel like a hero whatsoever. Any of the 300 people who were there would have said the same thing.”
San Bernardino Police Officer Nicholas Koahou was hit in the leg with a bullet during the pursuit of the suspects, which ended in a police shootout, ultimately killing them.
“Initially, when I went down, it felt like someone punched me in the leg,” he said, describing the scene as “constant gunfire.”
“At some point you stop hearing your shots because there’s so much noise,” Koahou said. He credited his training with both the Marines and the police department for his ability to “keep fighting.”
Fourteen people were killed and 21 injured when Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, stormed into the Inland Regional Center and opened fire at a holiday party for the Department of Environmental Health on Dec. 2.
Under a pseudonym, Malik posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook around the time of the shooting, authorities said. Investigators found that the couple had been radicalized “for quite some time,” according to the FBI.
ISIS later referred to Farook and Malik as “supporters,” but the group did not claim prior knowledge or operational input in the attack.
The couple died in a shootout with police hours after the attack. Authorities are still investigating the motives behind the attack.
San Bernardino County employees returned to work Monday amid increased security.
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