A heavily armed couple dressed in battle gear opened fire on a holiday banquet Wednesday, killing 14 people and seriously wounding more than a dozen others, later dying in a shootout with police. Here’s what’s known about the two suspects:
WHAT PROMPTED THE GUNFIRE?
Police do not have a motive for the shootings, which ended with a gun battle on a San Bernardino street that left 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook and 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik dead. Authorities say they were the only two shooters, and relatives said the two were married. Investigators have not ruled out a link with terrorism and are also looking into the possibility that a workplace dispute triggered the massacre at a social services center for the disabled.
WHO ARE THE SUSPECTS AND HOW DID THEY MEET?
Farook was born in Illinois and raised in Southern California, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. His family is originally from Pakistan, Ayloush said. Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year and returned with a wife, said co-worker Patrick Baccari, who attended the holiday party Wednesday but was in the bathroom when the shooting started. Baccari says Farook was gone for about a month in the spring, and when he returned word got around Farook had been married. The woman he described as a pharmacist joined him in the U.S. shortly afterward, and they soon had a baby. Police described Malik as Farook’s wife or fiancee.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Baccari, who was sitting at the same table as Farook, said employees at the holiday party were taking a break before snapping group photos when Farook suddenly disappeared, leaving a jacket draped over his chair. Baccari stepped out to the bathroom when he heard explosions.
“I’m getting pelted by shrapnel coming through the walls,” he said. “We hit the ground.”
The shooting lasted about five minutes, he said, and when he looked in the mirror he realized he was bleeding. He was hit by fragments in the body, face and arms.
“If I hadn’t been in the bathroom, I’d probably be laying dead on the floor,” he said.
HOW DID THE FAMILY REACT?
The suspects Farook and Malik left their 6-month-old baby girl with Farook’s mother early Wednesday morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, Ayloush said. Ayloush based his comments on conversations he had with Syed Rizwan Farook’s brother-in-law Farhan Khan, who appeared at a news conference late Wednesday as a family representative.
The young parents did not return to get their daughter for several hours, however, and their family became worried when they could not reach them after seeing reports on the news about the shooting. The family at first was concerned that Farook might be a victim of the shooting because they knew he worked as an environmental inspector at the county’s health department and sometimes worked at the Inland Regional Center, Ayloush said.
The family only began to piece together the events around 2 p.m. — three hours after the shooting — when a reporter called with questions, Ayloush said. Family members were being questioned by police late Wednesday.
“We don’t know the motives. Is it work, race-related, is it mental illness, is it extreme ideology? At this point, it’s really unknown to us and at this point it’s too soon to speculate,” Ayloush said.
WHAT DID FAROOK’S CO-WORKERS THINK OF HIM?
Baccari said his co-worker, who said he was raised on a farm with goats and chickens, was reserved, rarely starting a conversation on his own. Several months ago Farook grew out his beard. He appeared committed to his family, and never displayed any unusual behavior or discussed any radical political views. Co-workers told the Los Angeles Times Farook was a devout Muslim but didn’t talk about religion at work. Griselda Reisinger, who worked with Farook before leaving her job in May, told the Times he “never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious.”