- FBI calls it act of terrorism
- Wife pledged loyalty to ISIS
- No sign terror group knew of plans
- TV news crews rifle through suspects' home
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The mass shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday was an act of terrorism, the FBI said, ending speculation that the rampage that killed 14 might have been a workplace dispute.
“We’re now investigating these horrific acts as act of terrorism," Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich said at a press conference Friday morning.
That followed revelations that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group through Facebook.
Though Malik, the wife of second shooter Syed Farook, announced her loyalty to the terrorist organization, Bowdich wouldn’t characterize the worst shooting in the U.S. since the Sandy Hook school massacre as an ISIS attack. There's "no indication" that the attackers were part of a terrorist organization or cell though, FBI Director James Comey said on Friday.
No other suspects have been arrested, but Bowdich speculated that the investigation might lead to accomplices who helped the couple, who had amassed guns, thousands of rounds of ammunitions and pipe bombs.
A Facebook executive says Malik praised the leader of the Islamic State group in a post at 11 a.m. Wednesday, when the couple was believed to have stormed a San Bernardino social service center and opened fire.
The remarkable disclosure about the online activities of Malik provided the first significant details suggesting a motive for her participation with her husband in the shooting. It’s unclear if her allegiance meant she somehow influenced Farook to carry out the attack, Bowditch said.
Malik was a Pakistani woman who came to the U.S. in 2014 on a fiancee visa before Farook married her in California. They had a 6-month-old daughter.
A U.S. official said Malik expressed "admiration" for the extremist group's leader on Facebook under an alias account and said there was no sign that anyone affiliated with the Islamic State group communicated back to her and no signs of any operational instructions being conveyed to her. This official spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss case details by name.
The discovery of crushed cellphones in a trash can allegedly belonging to Farook and Malik could perhaps answer persistent questions about the attack, Bowditch said.
“We do hope that the digital fingerprints left by these two individuals will take us to their motivation,” Bowditch said.
The press conference followed a surreal scene at Malik and Farook’s Redlands, California, apartment. Reporters, photographers and camera people had rummaged through closets and examined personal belongings after the FBI restored control of the property to the landlord. Allowed inside by the landlord, an MSNBC journalist showed the driver’s license and other personal information of Farook’s mother. Cameras also showed photos of children.
It’s unusual for the media to have access to a suspect’s home, but the FBI said their investigation had been complete there. A garage where Malik and Farook allegedly stored weapons and ammunition remained off limits.
Farook, 28, had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attacks. Friends knew him by his quick smile, his devotion to Islam and his earnest talk about cars he would restore.
They didn't know the man authorities say was busy with his wife building homemade bombs and stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition for a commando-style assault Wednesday on a holiday party of his co-workers that killed 14 and injured 21.
"This was a person who was successful, who had a good job, a good income, a wife and a family. What was he missing in his life?" asked Nizaam Ali, who worshipped with Farook at a mosque in San Bernardino — the city east of Los Angeles where Farook killed and died.
Authorities say that the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into the room before fleeing. They died four hours later and 2 miles away during a furious gunbattle with police.
The pair had more than 1,600 bullets when they were killed. Police said they also had 12 pipe bombs, tools to make more explosives, and well over 4,500 rounds of ammunition at home.
Police Lt. Mike Madden, one of the first officers to reach the room at the social services center, where Farook's colleagues from San Bernardino County's public health department had gathered, said the carnage was unspeakable, the scene overwhelming: the smell of gunpowder, the wails of the injured, the blood, fire sprinklers pumping and fire alarms blaring. All in a room with a Christmas tree and decorations on every table.
The dead ranged in age from 26 to 60. Among the 21 injured were two police officers hurt during the manhunt, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday.
Nearly all the dead and wounded were county employees.
They were remembered Thursday night as several thousand mourners gathered at a local ballpark for a candlelight and prayer vigil with leaders of several religions paying them tribute. Mayor Carey Davis urged people to "dedicate and commit ourselves to strengthen our families to overcome." The names of the dead were read and participants sang "God Bless America."
Syed Rizwan Farook was born in Chicago on June 14, 1987, to parents born in Pakistan. He was raised in Southern California.
In July 2010, he was hired as a seasonal public employee and served until December of that year, according to a work history supplied by the county. In January 2012, he was rehired as a trainee environmental health specialist before being promoted two years later. Among his job duties was inspecting restaurants.
The soft-spoken Farook was known to pray every day at San Bernardino's Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque. That is where Nizaam Ali and his brother Rahemaan Ali met Farook.
The last time Rahemaan Ali saw his friend was three weeks ago, when Farook abruptly stopped coming to pray. Rahemaan Ali said Farook seemed happy and his usual self. Both brothers said they never saw anything to make them think Farook was violent.
They remember when Farook announced that he would be getting married, saying he had met his future wife online and that she was Pakistani. Farook told the brothers that he traveled to Mecca in Saudi Arabia last summer.
They said he was gone about a month before returning to the U.S. with his wife. Malik arrived on a K-1 visa for fiancées and with a Pakistani passport in July 2014, authorities said.
The two were married on Aug. 16, 2014, in nearby Riverside County, according to their marriage license. Both listed their religion as Muslim. The couple had a 6-month-old daughter who they dropped with relatives Wednesday morning before the shooting.
Farhan Khan, Farook's brother-in-law, told NBC News that he had started the legal process to adopt the girl. He described Farook as a "bad person," but said he was not radical.
Patrick Baccari, who sat at the same table as Farook at the employee party, recalled he was short on words and inclined to talk about cars, not religion.
However, a friend of a man killed in the rampage said Farook had a heated conversation about Islam two weeks before the attack.
Kuuleme Stephens said she happened to call Nicholas Thalasinos while her friend was talking with Farook at work. She said Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew who was passionately pro-Israel, told her Farook "doesn't agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion." Stephens said Farook replied that Americans don't understand Islam.
Stephens added that Thalasinos did not think their conversations would turn violent.
The U.S. official briefed on the investigation said whatever communication Farook had with suspected extremists was with "people who weren't significant players on our radar" and dated back some time. The official said the communication was a "potential factor" being looked at, but cautioned that "contact with individuals who are subjects of investigations in and of itself doesn't mean that you are a terrorist."
Farook legally bought two handguns used in the massacre and their two assault rifles were legally bought by someone else federal authorities wanted to question. That person's identity was not released.
A profile on a matchmaking website for South Asians that matched Farook's name, California hometown, county health job and Muslim faith said his interests included target shooting in his backyard. Though the date of the posting was not clear, it listed his age as 22.
Details about Farook's upbringing are sparse.
He grew up in a turbulent home but later graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, with a degree in environmental health sciences in 2010.
Divorce records depicted a home divided by abuse. Farook's mother alleged in 2006 that her husband, also named Syed, attacked her while her children were present, dropped a TV on her and pushed her toward a car, according to records.
Rafia Sultana Farook filed a petition for a domestic violence order of protection on July 3, 2006, against her husband. She said she was forced to move out with three of her children because her husband continually harassed her "verbally and physically," according to the divorce records.
The Associated Press could not immediately reach the father for comment and was unable to corroborate the allegations in the records. No one answered the door at a home in Corona where a neighbor said the father lived.
The Huffington Post contributed to this story.
Blood reported from Los Angeles and Tucker from Washington. Contributing to this report were AP writers Ken Dilanian in Washington; Gillian Flaccus, Christine Armario and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles; Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Mississippi; Garance Burke in San Francisco; and Jason Keyser in Chicago.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.