This is a breaking news story. This post will be frequently updated as new information becomes available.
The two people police suspect are responsible for Wednesday’s horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, California are dead — but details about their lives, their crimes, and their motives are slowly unfolding.
San Bernardino authorities named Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, as the primary suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the Inland Regional Center. The attack saw at least 14 people killed and 21 injured, police said on Thursday.
“There was obviously a mission here. We know that. We do not know why.”
A married couple, Farook and Malik were each of Pakistani descent. Farook was a U.S. citizen and Malik was not, though she was in America on a K-1 Visa. Malik obtained the K-1 Visa — which allows the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to temporarily enter the country — in July 2014, after Farook travelled internationally to meet her, police said. The two had a six-month-old daughter.
Farook and Malik were killed on Wednesday, not during their own attack but during a bloody shootout with police. During that shootout and their attack, they wore tactical-style body armor and were equipped with multiple guns, all of which were obtained legally, according to San Bernardino police.
Police chief Jarrod Burguan said the couple also had an enormous amount of ammunition and 12 crude pipe bombs in their home, including “hundreds of tools” that could have been used to construct more bombs. The couple also allegedly placed a pipe bomb at the Inland Regional Center, but the remote control they built to set it off did not work correctly and the device did not detonate.
“There was obviously a mission here. We know that,” FBI Los Angeles Assistant Director David Bowdich told reporters on Thursday. “We do not know why.”
As far as trying to figure out a motive, much of the attention so far has been placed on Farook, an American citizen born in Chicago, Illinois.
“He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious.”
For the last five years, the “tall, thin young man with a full beard” had been working as an environmental inspector for the San Bernardino County Public Health Department, where he inspected restaurants, among other things. Records from the county’s Department of Public Health show hundreds of inspection reports conducted by Farook over the years. The New York Times reported that he made about $70,000 a year.
Together, Farook and Malik appeared to be “living the American Dream,” a co-worker told the L.A. Times. They had met online, and had just had a baby.
As of Thursday, a few of Farook’s online dating profiles were still intact, giving a glimpse into his personal affiliations. He was a Sunni Muslim, according to one profile, and considered his family “religios [sic] but modern,” according to another. His interests included “read[ing] religios [sic] books” and “just hang[ing] out in back yard doing target pratice [sic] with younger sister and friends.”
Farook’s estranged father, also named Syed, told the Daily News that his son was a “very religious,” but was shocked at suggestions that religion may have been a motivating factor in the attack. Co-workers also told the L.A. Times that Farook had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, though they expressed similar disbelief that religious extremism drove him to kill.
“He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious,” Griselda Reisinger, a former co-worker, told the L.A. Times.
Police confirmed on Thursday that Farook had travelled internationally to meet Malik, but would not confirm that Saudia Arabia was the location. Based on that travel and the presence of pipe bombs, however, the New York Times is reporting that the FBI is treating the case as an act of terrorism.
“I’d much rather be slower and correct than fast and incorrect.”
At Thursday’s press conference, however, rhe FBI’s David Bowdich would not say that terrorism was a motivation for the attack. The investigation, he said, was just beginning.
“I’d much rather be slower and correct than fast and incorrect,” he said.
As authorities continue to probe the motivation for the attack, some noted that Farook had been involved in a workplace dispute at the Inland Center, where a holiday party for his department was occurring. The nature of that dispute has not been revealed, but Farook reportedly stormed out in anger before returning later with his wife, both dressed in tactical armor and donning assault rifles.
“I have no idea why he would he do something like this. I have absolutely no idea,” his brother, Farhan Khan, told reporters on Wednesday. “I am in shock myself.”
Details on Malik have so far been scarce — we’ll update this post when we know more.