Obama says motive for California shooting not yet clear

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Obama: Maybe Mixed Motives Involved in Shooting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that investigators do not yet know why two suspects killed 14 people and wounded 17 others in a mass shooting in Southern California, but vowed that the FBI and law enforcement would "get to the bottom of this."

"It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don't know. It is also possible that this was workplace-related," said Obama, who ordered flags flown at half-staff after the tragedy.

SEE ALSO: Couple's motive in California rampage a mystery for police, family

The San Bernardino shooting is the latest in a long series of U.S. mass shootings during Obama's seven years in office, and is the deadliest since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which he has said was his toughest day as president.

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Obama says motive for California shooting not yet clear
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: A local outreach group prays with residents near the scene of an investigation where two suspects were gunned down during a shootout with police, December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. A day earlier, the two suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Redondo Police Officer Dan Richey carries a bouquet of flowers to deliver to a female shooting victim that grew up in Redondo Beach at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.A day earlier, the two suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people and injured over 20 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 03: A mourner cries as she brings flowers to a road block outside of the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate a mass shooting at the Center that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A woman identified as the fiancée of shooting victim (C-purple) is comforted by friends and Chaplain Steve Ballinger (L) as she leaves flowers on December 3, 2015, near the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center where 14 people were killed on December 2 in San Bernardino, California. Ballinger said the woman's fiancé died in the attack. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Patrick T. Fallon (Photo credit should read PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Larry Jones, pastor of Cross over Outreach Church, Dr. Jeannetta Million, pastor of Victoria's Believers Church, and Arnold Morales, pastor of King of Glory Church bow their heads in prayers for the victims and those involved in the mass shootings at the Inland Regional Center, during a prayer vigil at Orange Show Road and Waterman Avenue December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Investigators are looking for a motive as to why Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik went on a shooting rampage that left 14 dead and at least 17 others wounded. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Local resident Katrina Venegas is close to tears as she has been kept away from her home which is directly in front of shooting scene where 2 suspects were gunned down driving a black SUV during a shootout with police on San Bernardino Avenue the day after the suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. She said her dog has been locked in the house alone since yesterday. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: San Bernardino resident Lisa Gonzalez hugs Pastor Ernie Ceballos after he was helpful in getting the police to escort her back to her home on the same street where sheriff deputies investigate the scene where 2 suspects were gunned down during a shootout with police on San Bernardino Avenue the day after the suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Gonzalez had left home briefly yesterday to go buy milk for her twin 3-year-olds. The shooting took place in front of her house while she was gone. She and her son, Santana Gonzalez,left, were not allowed back to their home so they spent the night in a hotel. Her husband was home with the children and wasn't allowed to leave the home. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
People wait at a community center for a family member who was near a shooting that killed multiple people at a social services center, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jesus Gonzales, center left, who has been separated with his wife since Wednesday's shooting, is comforted by local church members including Jose Gomez, center right, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Gonzales has been unable to get to his home due to a police shootout with suspects which took place in his neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A group of local church members pray for residents who live in the neighborhood where Wednesday's police shootout with suspects took place, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Multiple attackers opened fire on a banquet at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino on Wednesday, killing multiple people and sending police on a manhunt for suspects.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINA, CA - DECEMBER 2: Olivia Navarro waits to see her daughter after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A woman, center, who survived a shooting rampage, talks to members of the media outside a community center after she reunited with her parents Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Multiple attackers opened fire on a banquet at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino on Wednesday, killing multiple people and sending police on a manhunt for suspects. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 03: A group of men embrace in prayer outside the crime scene where the suspects in the shooting at the Inland Resource Center were killed on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 02: Mayor of San Bernadino, California R. Carey Davis pauses during a press conference at City Hall regarding the shooting that took place inside the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate the shooting that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
A woman who declined to give her name kisses her sister, center, a survivor of a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others as they reunite at a community center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man hugs a person who was near a shooting rampage at a social services center that killed multiple people and wounded others, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, at a community center where family members gathered to pick up the survivors in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 02: Mayor of San Bernadino, California R. Carey Davis speaks during a press conference at City Hall regarding the shooting that took place inside the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.Police continue to investigate the shooting that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Omar Riopedre embraces his wife Diana, who was in the Inland Regional Center when the mass shootings took place, as they leave the Rudy C. Hernandez Community Center in the San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. A man and a woman suspected of carrying out a deadly shooting at a center for the disabled in California were killed in a shootout with police, while a third person was detained, police said. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
David Bowditch, assistant director in charge of the FBI LA field office, talks to the media near the the site of a mass shooting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a Southern California social services center, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said. Authorities said the shooting rampage killed multiple people and wounded others. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, right, talks to the media near the the site of a mass shooting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a Southern California social services center, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said. Authorities said the shooting rampage killed multiple people and wounded others. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
People who were near a deadly shooting at a social services center that killed multiple people arrive at at a community center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINA, CA - DECEMBER 2: Luis Gutierrez gets emotional as he talks about his wife after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Marie Cabrera, Sonya Gonzalez and Christine Duran, all of San Bernardino, pray after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
People evacuated from the Inland Regional Center walk from busses into The Rock Church and World Outreach Center during the aftermath of a mass shooting at the facility on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunmen opened fire inside a center for the disabled in killing at least 14 people and wounding the same number before fleeing the scene, officials said. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Patrick T. Fallon (Photo credit should read PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wipes her tears at a community center where family members are gathering to pick up survivors after a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Teresa Hernandez, facing camera, is comforted by a woman as she arrives at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., where one or more gunmen opened fire, shooting multiple people on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to 3 suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Two women embrace at a community center where family members are gathering to pick up survivors after a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Police escort civilians away from the 1300 block of S. Waterman Street near the site of a shooting took place on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting under police and sheriff's escort on December 2, 2015 in San Bernadino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2, 2015: Evacuated workers pray in a circle on the San Bernardino Golf Course across the street where a mass shooting occurred at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Two women comfort each other near the scene of a shooting outside a Southern California social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., where one or more gunmen opened fire, shooting multiple people on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (KNBC via AP)
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Speaking from the Oval Office after meeting with his national security advisers, Obama expressed sympathy for the victims and said the United States needs to pass laws to "make it a little harder" for people seeking to do harm to get access to weapons.

But Obama took a less angry tone than he has used after other recent mass shootings, and sought to reassure Americans who are nervous after attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants last month.

He said the Federal Bureau of Imvestigation would take the lead in the investigation and would do a "large number of interviews" and pore over "social media and electronic information." But Obama said the shooters may have had "mixed motives" which could make the investigation more complicated, and warned it could take "some time" to reach conclusions.

"We do know that two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry in their home. But we don't know why they did it," he said.

"We don't know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations," he said.


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