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San Bernardino shooting happened in same room as earlier 'active-shooter training'

About a year ago, employees of San Bernardino County's Environmental Health Services division underwent an "active-shooter training." 

It was held at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino -- in the very same room that would one day be a site of bloodshed and horror.

It was not clear if gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, an environmental health specialist for the county, attended the earlier training, but some of the victims of Wednesday's mass shooting were likely to have participated, said a county spokeswoman.

Staff members within Farook's division will return to work next week, but other county departments reopened Monday.

“The purpose of terrorism is to make ordinary people afraid to do the ordinary things that make up their lives,” county Supervisor Janice Rutherford said Monday, five days after the massacre.

“These were dedicated public servants. They weren’t politicians, they weren’t celebrities. They weren’t law enforcement officers, they weren’t soldiers. But they became the front line in a battle against terrorists. To honor them, to express our gratitude for their unimaginable sacrifice, we have to fight to maintain that ordinary.”

Of the 14 fatalities, 12 were county employees.

FULL COVERAGE: San Bernardino shooting | Live updates

Trudy Raymundo, director of the county’s public health department, had been at the party held at the Inland Regional Center when the assailants -- Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik -- opened fire.

As her voice wavered Monday, she publicly thanked authorities and medical personnel who responded and requested that the community join together in grief.

“Mourn with us the loss of our colleagues, of our friends, of our families and our loved ones,” she said. “I ask that you come together and hold each other strong, because it is this strength that will help us heal. And I want you to every day be grateful for those of us that were spared.”

Raymundo said she had arrived about an hour before the shooting began Wednesday, noting that the usual camaraderie was on display.

“They were upbeat, they were happy, they were learning from each other, which is indicative of what this group has always been,” she said. “I want to make it clear that this is a very tight, close-knit group. They have always supported each other. They are beyond co-workers. They are friends and they are family. They are tight and we are holding onto each other right now.”

County officials pledged to ramp up security measures. James Ramos, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said county buildings would see an increase in security guards and that many of them would be armed, but declined to go into details. He said employees would also be asked for their input on what would make them feel safe. 

Farook and Malik strode into the holiday party about 11 a.m. and fired at least 65 shots at Farook’s co-workers.

Police later tracked down the couple, who got into a pitched gun battle in a San Bernardino residential neighborhood. Farook, an American citizen, and Malik, a Pakistani national, were killed.

Personnel at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center had readied themselves for the gunshot victims headed their way last week.

One of their physicians, Dr. Michael Neeki -- a member of a multi-agency SWAT team -- said he drove to the scene of the shooting, making his way around barricades. He took a handgun with him into the building because it was feared the shooters were still inside. After making sure the second floor was clear, he headed to the scene of the final shootout in an armored vehicle.

Arrowhead ended up treating six victims, all of whom survived.

“To see something of this magnitude is unexpected. To have it in our country is unexpected,” said Dr. Kona Seng on Monday.

“But if you were there and looked into the eyes of those who were working … that sort of restores some of that faith in humanity,” he added.  

Times staff writer Corina Knoll contributed to this report.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Update

2:19 p.m.: This story was updated with information about an "active-shooter" training held in the same room as the attack.

11:13 a.m.: This story was updated with comments from San Bernardino County officials and medical personnel.

9:20 a.m.: This story was updated throughout with new details.

7:50 a.m.: This story was updated with comments from San Bernardino County officials.

This story was first published at 7:37 a.m.

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