‘It was unspeakable, the carnage,’ says first San Bernardino officer to arrive

San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden speaks to reporters near the site of the rampage.

San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden speaks to reporters near the site of the rampage.

(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

San Bernardino police Lt. Mike Madden was the first officer to arrive at the scene, said police chief Jarrod Burguan. He was nearby, on his way to lunch, when dispatchers sounded the alarm that there was an active shooting incident in San Bernardino.

Madden pulled up just south of the Inland Regional Center building, No. 3, where the shooting had just occurred. Madden waited for two minutes until he and three other officers were available to enter the building together.

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This is his account of what he saw, told to reporters at a press conference late Thursday:

“The four of us then went around the south side of the building. As we made our way around to the east side, it was immediately evident that the reports that we were getting were 100% true.

“There were victims who were clearly, obviously deceased, outside of the conference room. ...

“As we entered into the conference room, the situation was surreal. It was something that I don’t think, again, we prepare for...

“It was unspeakable. The carnage that we were seeing. The number of people who were injured, and were unfortunately already dead. And the pure panic on the faces of those individuals that were still in need and needing to be safe.

“We got as many people out as quickly as we could....And then we went further into the building, and that was a difficult choice to have to make as well -- passing people that we knew were injured and needed assistance.

“But our goal at that time had to be trying to locate the shooters, and deal with them...

“When we entered, there was fresh gunpowder, and the smell of gunpowder in the air, leading me to believe that there were, in fact, shooters still...

“It was a little surreal. ... This was tragedy that I’ve never experienced in my career...

“There are so many families, as we go into this holiday season, that are now going to have to deal with the tragedy that were left behind by this senseless act of violence...

“The initial 50 people [that were rescued] did not want to come to us. They were fearful. And they were in the back hallway area. And that actually heightened my concern and my fear that, potentially, the suspects were in that hallway, holding them hostage. And waiting for us to enter into the hallway.

“We had to tell them several times: ‘Come to us. Come to us.’ And ultimately, they did. And once that first person took that motion forward, it opened the flood gates, and everybody wanted to come....

“The fire alarms were going off. They were people who were obviously injured and obviously in great amounts of pain.

“And that was evident, in the moans and the wails that we were hearing in the room. It was very loud in the room.

“And we also had fire sprinklers going off inside the room, so that was adding to the chaos...

“It’s a fairly large meeting room. And I noticed, upon entering, that there’s a Christmas tree in there. All of the tables were decorated for a Christmas party. And it just seemed so senseless...

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