Officials: San Bernardino shooter apparently radicalized, in touch with terror subjects
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, fired between 65 and 75 rifle rounds during the shooting at a county health department holiday party, then unloaded about that number in a later confrontation with police.
Fourteen died in the holiday party carnage and 21 more were wounded, according to Burguan. He said two police officers suffered injuries in the subsequent shootout.
Authorities later found thousands more rounds of ammunition at the couple’s residence, 12 pipe bombs and hundreds of tools that “could be used to construct IEDs or pipe bombs,” the chief said.
Burguan said “we still don’t have a motive,” but speculated that the couple may have been planning more carnage.
“They were equipped … and they could have done another attack,” the chief said.
[Original story posted at 12:40 p.m. ET]
Syed Rizwan Farook — one-half of the couple behind the San Bernardino shooting massacre — was apparently radicalized and in touch with people being investigated by the FBI for international terrorism, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
Farook’s apparent radicalization contributed to his role in the mass shooting, with his wife Tashfeen Malik, of 14 people Wednesday during a holiday party for the San Bernardino County health department, where Farook worked, sources said.
Still, it wasn’t necessarily the only driver behind the carnage, as workplace grievances may have also played a role. President Barack Obama hinted as much Thursday when he said that the attackers may have had “mixed motives.”
Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia for several weeks in 2013 on the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime, which didn’t raise red flags, said two government officials. It was during this trip that he met Malik, a native of Pakistan who came to the United States on a “fiancée visa” and later became a lawful permanent resident.
Officials had previously said that neither Farook and Malik were known to the FBI or on a list of potentially radicalized people. Nor had they had any known interactions with police until Wednesday’s deadly shootout that culminated in their deaths.
Yet Farook himself had communicated by phone and via social media with more than one person being investigated for terrorism, law enforcement officials said. A separate U.S. government official said the 28-year-old has “overseas communications and associations.”
As to what role those all played in the San Bernardino carnage, the official acknowledged, ” We don’t know yet what they mean.”
Chief: Shooter left party under ‘angry’ circumstances
The nightmare began at Wednesday’s holiday party, where San Bernardino’s police chief said that Farook left abruptly “under circumstances that were described as angry.”
He returned with his wife dressed in “dark kind of tactical gear” and heavily armed — each with a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun. And they opened fire.
The couple then led police on a chase, with Farook firing while Malik drove, that ended with their deaths in a hail of bullets.
They left behind an avalanche of pain. San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis saw it in the eyes of relatives of those killed, whose bodies were still in the Inland Regional Center early Thursday, according to county sheriff’s spokesman Deon Filer.
Davis told CNN, “The desperation and despair that they feel, we feel that for them also.”
Ten people were still hospitalized Thursday morning, split evenly between Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and Loma Linda University Medical Center. The Loma Linda hospital CEO, Kerry Heinrich, said two of the victims there were in critical condition.
Police have not released the names of those who died.
Once again after a mass shooting, Obama appealed Thursday for something to be done to prevent more heartache.
“Right now, it’s too easy,” he said. “We’re going to have to search ourselves as a society … to take basic steps that would make it harder — not impossible, but harder — to let individuals get access to weapons.”
‘People shot. Pray for us’
The nightmare began around 11 a.m. (2 p.m. ET) Wednesday at the Inland Regional Center, a facility for developmentally disabled people in San Bernardino. That’s when Terry Pettit got a text message from his daughter, who was inside.
“Shooting at my work. People shot,” she wrote. “Pray for us. I am locked in an office.”
Around that time, Denise Peraza called her sister Stephanie Baldwin, thinking it might be time to say goodbye.
“As soon as the gunfire started, everyone dropped to the floor and they were underneath desks, and she was trying to shield herself with a chair, along with a man next to her,” Baldwin told CNN affiliate KABC. “Then, all of a sudden, she said she just felt [the bullet] going through her back.”
“I just want to tell you that I love you,” Peraza told Baldwin over the phone through tears.
Within minutes, officers stormed the building searching for an active shooter. They counted the dead — and shuttled the wounded out to triage.
“We had to come out with our hands up and be escorted across the street to the golf course,” a woman who works at the center told KCAL/KCBS.
“We stood there for hours, hours, witnessing clothing of deceased ones on the street, people crying, co-workers crying, us wanting to get to our children.”
Farook and Malik slipped away in a black SUV.
Not for long. Acting on information that quickly pointed police to Farook, they went to his home in the neighboring city of Redlands with a search warrant.
A black SUV drove by them. Slowly at first, then it sped away.
A police car took up pursuit, as the SUV raced back toward San Bernardino. While Malik drove, Farook shot out of the vehicle.
Some 21 officers returned fire. When the SUV came to a halt, it was riddled with bullet holes. The couple inside was dead.
One officer was wounded, but his injuries were not life-threatening, Burguan said.
In the chaos, police encountered a third person who was running away.
“We do not know if they were involved,” Burguan said. “We have that person detained.”
But they feel confident that there were only two shooters — Farook and Malik.
This is notable given that, while there have been many mass shootings, it’s extremely rare when they involve more than one shooter. Only two of the 28 deadliest shootings since 1949 in the United States have had more than one shooter.
Guns, explosives found
The husband and wife didn’t leave behind a note at Inland Regional. But they did stash three explosive devices — rigged to a remote-controlled toy car — that didn’t go off.
And in their SUV, authorities found two .223-caliber rifles along with two pistols, which officials said were legally purchased three to four years ago.
Back at Inland Regional, authorities found three rudimentary explosive devices packed with black powder and rigged to a remote-controlled toy car. That remote was found inside the SUV. And in the vehicle was another pipe-like device, but it was not an explosive, Burguan said.
Authorities converged on the couple’s residence in Redlands, looking for any other evidence — more weapons or clues that could shed light on a motive.
The police chief said late Wednesday that terrorism couldn’t be ruled out. He did say that, given everything involved, the attack didn’t appear to be a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I think, based on what we’ve seen, there was some degree of planning,” Burguan said.
“We don’t have a motive at this point. We are still searching the motive.”
Speaking Thursday from Washington, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged that “we don’t know a lot right now. But one thing that’s clear is that violence like this has no place in this country.”
“This is not what we stand for,” Lynch said. “This is not what we do … it’s not what we live for.”
Brother-in-law ‘in shock’
Farook, an American citizen, was an environmental health specialist with the San Bernardino County health department, which was holding the holiday party. He had worked there for five years.
In an online profile, he described himself as a “Muslim Male living in USA/California/riverside” and his family as “Religious but modern.”
He “enjoys working on vintage and modern cars, reads religious books, enjoys eating out sometimes. Enjoys travelling and just hanging out in the back yard doing target practice with his younger sister and friends,” his profile read.
Farook’s brother-in-law Farhan Khan said he was “devastated” by the news.
“I have no idea why he would he do something like this. I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself,” Khan said. “I don’t have words to express how sad and how devastated I am.”
Khan said he last talked to Farook a week ago. Farook’s family had tried to reach him all day Wednesday but could not. Hussam Ayloush, the head of the Southern California chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said Farook and his wife had dropped off their 6-month-old girl with her grandmother and claimed they were going to a doctor’s appointment before the massacre.
“There’s absolutely nothing that could justify (this shooting),” Ayloush told reporters. “And we stand in mourning and sadness for what happened.”