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San Bernardino center CEO: Shooting was in conference room rented by a healthcare provider

The board president and CEO of a center that provides services to people with disabilities said the fatal mass shooting that happened there Wednesday occurred in a large conference room that had been rented to a healthcare provider.

Marybeth Feild, who was not inside the building at the time, said she received numerous calls from employees who told her three shooters went into the room, which holds up to 200 people, and opened fire.

Nearly all of the Inland Regional Center’s employees were evacuated from the building and taken to the Rock Church & World Outreach Center in San Bernardino, she said.

“I don’t even understand why they would target these individuals,” Feild said. “This is very bizarre. I don’t know why anybody would want to hurt people who provide disability services.”

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Feild said she was heartbroken. “Just pray for everyone,” she said.

With nearly 670 employees, the Inland Regional Center serves people with developmental disabilities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the center’s Facebook page.

According to the center’s 2012 tax returns, the most recent available, it provides services to 27,000 developmentally disabled people in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, including therapies for clients with autism and speech impediments.

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That year, the center had revenue of $316 million, according to the tax returns, which identify the center as a nonprofit charity funded by taxpayers.

According to the center, it was “built on the foundation of three core values – independence, inclusion, and empowerment. In following these core values, we hope to help provide each individual with a service system that helps identify and eliminate barriers for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families so they can closely live a typical lifestyle.”

Feild said the conference room was decorated for a holiday party at the time of the shooting. She said she was working to identify the healthcare provider that had rented the room, the largest in the building.

Feild said there were no prior incidents to indicate something like the shooting would happen. She said she handles all complaints and threats made to the center. There were none before the shooting, she said.

In 2010, parents and care providers criticized the center, alleging it ignored children’s needs, the San Bernardino Sun reported. The center was accused for appearing to show favoritism regarding vendor rates.

Employees filed a civil lawsuit against the center alleging they were retaliated against for advocating for patients, the Sun reported.

Follow @VeronicaRochaLA, @bposton and @gtherolf on Twitter.

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