Murderous Rampage In SB Leaves 14 Slain In Deadliest Mass Killing In County History

The deadliest shooting rampage in San Bernardino County history took place on Wednesday, as a county worker and his wife dressed in dark clothing used semi-automatic assault weapons against a collection of the worker’s colleagues who were gathered for a seminar and early Christmas party.
Syed Rizwan Farook, an environmental health specialist with the San Bernardino County Health Department, had been in attendance at the holiday party at the Inland Regional Center, which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The San Bernardino County Department of Public Health had rented space at the Regional Center to hold the holiday party. More than sixty people were in attendance at the event, most of them Public Health Department employees. At one point Farook left the gathering.
According to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, someone in attendance at the event, alarmed at Farook’s demeanor just prior to his leaving, phoned authorities out of concern, identifying Farook by name and describing the black sport utility vehicle (SUV) he was driving.
“We got a couple of tips and we were following up on a couple of different leads,” Burguan said. “We were called by a person who was in the building who knew him. They identified him by name [and] expressed a concern about his behavior prior to the event, in the way that he left.”
Farook, a 2009 graduate from California State University, San Bernardino who had worked with the health department for the last five years, returned to the Regional Center with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, about 20 minutes later, shortly after 11 a.m. Each was armed with a semi-automatic rifle as well as a pistol and both were clad in what was described as “dark, tactical” assault-style clothing. They came back into the conference room where the party was being held and opened fire, discharging, officials said, roughly 75 rounds.
Killed were Robert Adams, 40; Isaac Amanios, 60; Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46; Harry Bowman, 46; Sierra Clayborn, 27; Juan Espinoza, 50; Aurora Godoy, 26; Shannon Johnson, 45; Larry Kaufman, 42; Damian Meins, 58; Tin Nguyen, 31; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52; Michael Wetzel, 37; and Yvette Velasco, 27.
Twenty-one others were wounded.
Farook and Malik walked to a black SUV and slowly drove away from the parking lot as people ran frantically from the building.
After reports of the shooting were relayed to the San Bernardino Police Department, which had previously been alerted with regard to Farook’s conduct, suspected volatility and presence at the Regional Center, police obtained all immediately available personal data about him, including the address of his Redlands residence. A search warrant for the residence was obtained.
Meanwhile, Farook and Malik, a Pakistani national living in Saudi Arabia whom Farook had met online and married two years ago and with whom he had a six-month-old child, had returned to that residence, a townhome. A San Bernardino squad car with two officers had been dispatched to and arrived near the Redlands residence. At that location, Farook and Malik drove by the police car in the SUV, which was rented from a local agency and had Utah plates. Farook was at the wheel and after encountering the police car, sped away. The police car gave chase. A radio call for assistance went out.
Malik, using the rifle she was armed with, shot out the back window of the vehicle she and her husband were traveling in and then trained fire on the police car trailing the SUV. When they reached the 1800 block of East San Bernardino Avenue within the San Bernardino City Limits, Farook pulled over and joined his wife in firing upon the police car. Within minutes, a total of 21 officers were at the location. According to authorities, Farook and Malik fired 76 rounds at the officers, who in total returned fire with 380 rounds. The gear Farook and Malik were outfitted with did not include bulletproof vests and the couple was mortally wounded in the hail of gunfire that converged on them.
In the initial aftermath of the shooting, multiple agencies were present in San Bernardino to assist the San Bernardino Police Department in its handling and investigation of the matter. By day’s end, the FBI had taken lead status in that investigation, which was aimed at determining motive and the degree to which Farook and Malik had assistance from outside sources. As late as Thursday, the FBI resisted characterizing Wednesday’s mayhem as an act of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists.
David Bowditch, an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the bureau’s Los Angeles office said on December 3, “It would be irresponsible of me and premature to call this terrorism,” though he did say “If you look at the amount of obvious preplanning that went into this, the amount of armaments that he had, the weapons and the ammunition, there was obviously a mission here.” At that point the possibility that the killings were somehow related to workplace discontent had not been entirely ruled out, Bowditch said.
But given the participation of Farook’s wife in the mayhem and the firepower involved, few had any lingering doubts as to the impetus behind the murders. On the murderous pair’s persons or in their vehicle, which had been rented from a local car agency just days before the attack, were 1,400 rounds of ammunition. At their Redlands condominium were 2,000 9 mm rounds and 2,200 long rifle rounds, 12 pipe bomb devices including at least one attached to a remote control car and material to make at least dozens more. It was also learned that the couple had attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to modify one of the rifles used in the shootings to fully automatic capacity.
Coworkers described Farook, who carried out health inspections of restaurants and hotels, as normally quiet and polite. Most who knew him more than casually recognized he was a devout Muslim. It was reported that in a typical work day, he would twice take the opportunity to depart from his workplace or daily rounds at restaurants and hotels to pray and then return to work.
As of Thursday, Bowditch said, “We flew in a team from Washington to do some reenactment, some reconstruction of the crime scene. We have collected evidence and are continuing to collect evidence at the multiple scenes. We are going to fly the evidence back to Washington, D.C. on a plane. That is because we want some expeditious analysis of that evidence as far as digital media. The digital media is important because we are trying to determine the motive.”
Within 24 hours, Bowditch acknowledged “We are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism.”
Either Farook or Malik had sought to destroy electronic devices in their possession but failed to prevent the FBI from recovering data on or transmitted through those devices. A forensic analysis showed that Malik had posted, under a name that was not her own, a pledge of allegiance to an Islamic State leader to a Facebook page. It was also discovered that Farook, using social media, had been in contact with known radicalized Islamic figures.
By early this morning, West Coast time, an attorney claiming he represented the deceased Farook and Malik and their families, David Chelsey, had turned up, asserting the statements claiming his clients were responsible for the 14 killings in the manner described by authorities “don’t add up.” Chelsey said it would have been impossible for the 90-pound Malik to have wielded the heavy ammunition, guns and tactical gear used in the murders.
Wednesday’s carnage ranks as the sixth deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the second deadliest in California behind that carried out by James Huberty in San Ysidro on July 18, 1984 when 21 were killed.
As far as the city of San Bernardino goes, Wednesday is by far the most horrific day in the history of a city that was already prone to gun violence. December 2, 2015 far outpaced the next most intensive murderous spree in the county seat, that between April 28 and May 7, 2012, a period of nine days when eight people were murdered in the city. Prior to Wednesday, San Bernardino was 28th on the list of cities in the United States for the number of homicides that occurred so far in 2015.

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