Lieutenant Mike Madden was one of the first San Bernardino police officers to respond Wednesday morning to the shooting at the Inland Regional Center that left 14 dead and 21 injured.
Madden, a 24-year-veteran, spoke emotionally at a press conference Thursday night to describe what he and the other first responders saw and did when they arrived at the scene, where two gunmen, a husband and wife, opened fire during a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health holiday party.
You can watch Madden speak about the shooting above. His portion of the press conference begins at about the five-minute mark of the video.
The shooters were later killed during a shootout Wednesday afternoon. The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing. The victims have been identified, and you can read about them here.
Here’s what you need to know about Madden:
1. He Was on His Lunch Break When He Responded to the Shooting
Madden told reporters he was on his lunch break and about a mile away from the shooting scene when the calls first came in. He works in a mainly administrative role, and said he could hear in the voice of the dispatchers that it was a “real” event.
When he got to the scene, he and three other officers made the first entry into the building. Madden described chaos, with wounded and deceased victims, a fire alarm and sprinklers going off and the fear that the shooters may still be in the building.
“It was unspeakable the carnage we were seeing and the fear and panic on people’s faces,” Madden said.
You can listen to the radio calls as Madden and other officers arrived to the shooting scene:
Madden said there was chaos when they entered the building.
“It was extremely loud. The fire arlams were going off. There were people who were obviously injured and obviously in great amounts of pain and that was evident in the moans and the wails we were hearing in the room,” Madden said. “We also had fire sprinklers going off in the room so that was adding to the chaos.”
Madden told reporters he could tell the large room was being used for a party.
“I noticed upon entry that there’s a Christmas tree in there,” he said. “All of the tables were decorated for a Christmas party and it just seemed so senseless that people were going into their holiday festivities and now were dealing with that.”
Police said the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health held meetings in the morning and were just beginning the holiday party portion of the day when the shooting began. Syed Farook, who worked as a health inspector for the county, had been at the meeting and then left, returning with his wife at about 11 a.m.
2. He Said the Survivors Were Nervous About Coming to Them
Madden said when he and the other officers entered the building, they found a group of survivors in a hallway. He said he could see they were afraid, and did not want to come to them. After a moment, one person moved forward and the others then followed.
“You have to be clear in your orders,” Madden said. “The initial 50 people 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 in to 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 the motions forward, it opened the flood gates and everyone wanted to come and get away from that as quickly as possible.”
“We can’t panic in those situations, these people have already dealt with enough, the last thing they need to see is their police officers panicking,” Madden said.
Madden said even with all the training he has received, he was not prepared for what he witnessed. He said he and the other officers relied on their training, which they have received since the Columbine High School shootings, to keep people calm, get people out of the building and find out if the shooters were still there.
He said since the shooting, he has tried to reach out to the other officers who responded to help them deal with the tragedy they witnessed.
3. He Is a Native of San Bernardino
Madden is a native of San Bernardino, his chief said at the press conference.
According to the biography on the police department’s website, he “was born and raised in San Bernardino and always had a desire to serve the community he was raised in.”
He spent two years as an officer in Claremont, California, before joining the San Bernardino Police Department in 1993.
4. He Has Worked in Many Roles During His Time With the Police Department
Madden worked as a recruiter, a field training officer and as a member of the bicycle mounted enforcement team. He was promoted to detective in 2004 and worked in the Crimes Against Children Unit.
In 2007, he was promoted to sergeant and served as the field training supervisor and as an operations sergeant. He was then moved to be the supervisor of the Crimes Against Persons Unit.
In 2012, he became the lieutenant in charge of the Northwest District. And in 2014, he was put in charge of overseeing the Dispatch and Records divisions.
5. He Said He Saw Heroic Efforts Everywhere on Wednesday
Madden told reporters that he saw heroic efforts from his fellow officers, the members of other departments and agencies who came to help and others at the scene.
“We’ve taken a lot of hits lately,” Madden said about police officers. “Some justified, much of it not justified, and it takes a toll, it takes a toll on all cops. It’s hard being labeled, and hard being branded as being ‘rogue.’ … The vast majority of officers go out and they do the job to protect the public. And yesterday, it reminded me of that.”