Days before killing 14 people at a holiday party, Syed Farook practiced with a rifle during one of several recent visits to a Southern California shooting range, authorities said. Sometimes he was joined by his wife, his partner in the attack.
Farook visited Riverside Magnum Range on Nov. 29 and 30, according to an instructor at the range about 20 miles from the Inland Regional Center, where the couple opened fire on Farook’s co-workers Dec. 2.
John Galletta said that nothing was out of the ordinary about Farook’s behavior but that Farook asked a range employee why his rifle might be smoking. He was told it was most likely because it was new.
Asked whether in hindsight he or others at the range should have been suspicious of Farook, Galletta said Monday: “How are you able to determine what somebody’s intents are?”
The FBI said Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, had embraced violent Islamist ideology.
“Both subjects were radicalized and have been for quite some time,” said David Bowdich, chief of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told reporters Monday.
“How did that happen and by whom and where did that happen?” he said. “Right now we don’t know those answers.”
Authorities also disclosed that a year before the rampage, Farook’s co-workers at the San Bernardino County health department underwent training on how to react to a workplace shooter in the same conference room where the couple opened fire.
It was not immediately clear whether Farook attended the session, according to county spokeswoman Felisa Cardona, who said it was held in November or December 2014.
Two county employees who survived the attack said colleagues reacted by doing as they had been trained — dropping under tables and staying quiet.
“Unfortunately, the room just didn’t provide a whole lot of protection,” said Corwin Porter, assistant county health director.
The Inland Regional Center said Tuesday that it would not reopen until January at the earliest. Spokeswoman Leeza Hoyt said law enforcement has not yet handed over control of the crime scene, after which the center will have to clean up.
She said caseworkers are still helping clients with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy through field work.
Hundreds gathered at a vigil honoring the victims Monday night at California State University, San Bernardino, just miles from the center. A bell pealed 14 times — once for each victim — and mourners lit white candles. The school was hit hard by the tragedy — five of the victims and Farook were alumni.
Farook, a 28-year-old restaurant inspector born in the U.S. to a Pakistani family, and Malik, a 29-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, attacked the holiday luncheon around the same time Malik pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group on Facebook, authorities said. The two were killed hours later in a gunbattle with police.
Newly released emergency radio transmissions from the fast-moving tragedy show that police identified Farook as a suspect almost immediately, even though witnesses reported that the attackers wore black ski masks.
An unidentified police officer put out Farook’s name because a witness said Farook had left the luncheon “out of the blue” 20 minutes before the shooting, “seemed nervous” and matched the description of one of the attackers, according to audio recordings posted by The Press-Enterprise newspaper of Riverside.
The two assault rifles used in the attack had been legally purchased by an old friend of Farook’s, Enrique Marquez, authorities said, but they are still trying to determine how the couple got the weapons. Marquez has not been charged with a crime.
Porter, of the health department, said neither shooter spoke before firing.
“We weren’t quite sure if it was an exercise the staff were throwing that they forgot to tell us about,” he said, “but we all reacted instinctively and went under our tables.”
Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. Contributing to this report were John Antczak, Sue Manning and Christine Armario in Los Angeles; and Brian Skoloff in Riverside, California.
Copyright © 2015 Capitol Hill Blue
Copyright © 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved