FBI officials on Tuesday called for the public’s help in its continuing investigation of the San Bernardino attack in which the shooters’ whereabouts are unknown for 18 minutes following last month’s assault that left 14 dead. Los Angeles FBI chief David Bowdich acknowledged that investigators are not able to account for Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik between 12:59 p.m. and 1:17 p.m., only two hours after the couple fired on a holiday party gathering. Investigators are searching for photographic or other electronic evidence that could pinpoint their locations during the time in question.
Investigators still believe that the attack was inspired by radical terrorist ideology rather than directed by a specific group abroad, but Bowdich said there is a need to be “absolutely certain” of the activities of both before they were killed in a shootout with police. Bowdich referred Tuesday to a timeline beginning at 8:37 a.m., when Farook left his home to join work colleagues at a meeting that was to culminate in a holiday gathering.
The FBI on Tuesday additionally released images of the vehicle and license plate of the SUV and a map of the area where they were believed to have traveled. Investigators have conducted 500 interviews, collected 500 pieces of evidence and executed 29 search warrants. The only person charged in connection with the attacks is Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend of Farook’s accused of providing the assault rifles used in the massacre. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in federal court in nearby Riverside.
After the rampage, the couple visited an area lake at 11:45 a.m. and then appeared to zig-zag throughout the area, stopping at certain places, Bowdich said. Bowdich characterized the shooters’ movements as erratic and “back and forth.” The pair stopped briefly at a parking lot and Seccombe Lake in San Bernardino. While he declined to speculate if whatever happened during the timeline gap could still present a danger to the public, “until we close that gap, we just don’t know for sure.”
Investigators are asking the public for photographic, video, or other information to call the FBI at (800) 225-5324 to help close that gap. Bowdich added that a search of nearby lake at a park revealed no items pertinent to the investigation. Bowdich also said the Christmas party was potentially a significant factor in the Muslim couple’s decision to target the gathering, the New York Times reported. He declined to elaborate.
Officials have said the couple appear to have planned the attack for at least a few months, amassing weapons, ammunition and explosives. Another poster showed the SUV they were driving: a black 2015 Ford Expedition with dark-tinted rear windows, chrome accents on the rear lift gate and a roof rack. The vehicle had a Utah license plate, X52-3RY. The car had been rented at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Colton Avenue in Redlands. Workers there declined comment Tuesday.
The FBI official said there has already been a lot of cooperation with investigators to assemble the evidence so far, but “if you’ve not been talked to, and you have some sort of media in your holdings or you have surveillance camera footage, or cell phone footage, please give that to us,” he asked.