Questions loom after Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino: was it a disgruntled employee lashing out after an argument at a County employee Christmas party, as initially believed, or was it an act of terrorism?
First reports made the disgruntled employee scenario seem plausible. But as the dust settles and the investigation continues, that scenario seems less likely.
Instead reports are streaming in that the FBI is treating the incident as a possible act of terrorism. ABC News reports that police are digging deep into the lives of the husband and wife team that carried out the shooting that left 14 dead and 21 injured – some still fighting for their lives.
Officials have named Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27, as the shooters. After sweeping their home on Thursday, police found an arsenal big enough to kill thousands – rifles, pipe bombs, and a “chilling assortment of ammunition,” ABC News reports.
Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Berdardino Police Department said, “Clearly they were equipped and could have continued to do another attack.” Investigators found more than 6,100 unspent rounds of bullets in the couple’s home and the get-away car.
Also in the search police found two high-powered assault rifles and two handguns, all purchased legally and quietly stockpiled by Farook and his wife.
In the garage investigators uncovered a virtual bomb factory with twelve unexploded bombs described as similar to one featured in an al-Quida publication. ABC News interviewed a neighbor, Aaron Elswick, who said, “They had received packages, quite a few packages within a short amount of time. They were doing a lot of work out in the garage and it was kind of suspicious.”
But nobody called police. One neighbor said he was afraid to call police for fear he would be accused of profiling the couple.
While ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross reports that investigators are now treating the case as a potential act of terrorism, Assistant Director of the FBI Los Angeles David Bowdich said Thursday, “It would be irresponsible and premature of me to call this terrorism.“
Burguan said witnesses reported Farook had attended the party and left under duress or angry. He returned a short time later with his wife, Malik, dressed in tactical gear. The couple marched into the meeting room and opened fire.
It was reported they were not aiming at any one person. Burguan said, “They sprayed the room with bullets so I don’t know there was one person that they ultimately targeted. They killed 14 people.”
Burguan said it appeared to him that this was much more than workplace violence. “Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of an elaborate scheme or plan to come back and do that, so there was some planning that went into this,” Burguan said.
On a Muslim dating site, Farook described himself as an “Allah fearing, calm thought full and simple man.” His screen name was syed49 – male, 28 years old, never married, living in Riverside, California.
The description continues: “I am born and raised here. I try to live as a good Muslim, looking for a girl who has the same outlook. Wear hijab, but live the life to the fullest be my partner for snow boarding. To go out and eat with friends. Go camping. Working on cars with me. Also be calm cool thought full. Love to spend time with friends and family.”
“The news of the shooting was shocking, unbelievable, unfathomable. It’s left us all speechless and it is an act we condemn as Muslims,” said Roshan Abbassi, Asst. Iman of Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah of America said Thursday.
Farook’s wife is a mystery to police. “We don’t know enough,” the FBI said. Malik came to the United States with Farook from Saudi Arabia in 2014. She came on a “fiancée” Visa. Their marriage license shows they married on August 16, 2014. Their address was listed in Riverside, California. They registered for baby gifts when their daughter was born six months ago.
This same couple fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition against police during a fatal shootout that left the couple dead and two officers with minor injuries. The vehicle they had rented – a black SUV – was riddled with bullets. Farook drove while Malik fired at police from the back.
Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross said the FBI is now looking for connections between Farook and Malik and two specific individuals here in the United States involved in the radicalization of Farook or in the planning of the attack.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is that the FBI is saying it’s too early to call this an act of terrorism.”