As the water raining down from the overhead sprinklers pooled in rivers of blood and the smell of gunpowder hung in the air Wednesday, Ryan Starling remembered his training. He got out his white tape.
More than two dozen victims lay on the floor at the Inland Regional Center, the 33-year-old medic recalled Tuesday.
Starling began moving from body to body to determine who might survive.
"In five seconds, you look at their skin color, their breathing and you feel their pulse," he said. "By all those things, you are determining if they are critical or deceased." He marked the dead with white tape so he and other rescuers could focus their efforts on the living.
Just minutes earlier, Starling and his SWAT teammates had been training for just such a grim task — conducting active shooter drills less than 10 miles away.
He said that when the first shooting reports arrived, his specialized team, already armed and dressed, switched out blanks for real rounds in their assault rifles and rushed to the scene.
Starling expected to be the first paramedic to arrive, and he knew that other medical personnel would be ordered to wait at a safe distance in keeping with standard policy intended to keep firefighters safe.
As a medic attached to a SWAT team, Starling wasn't bound by that rule. He would be going in.
Coordinating with police and sheriff's deputies, the SWAT team worked first to clear civilians out the first floor of the southernmost building on the campus.