Monday 19 February 2018

Killer couple left baby with relatives before gun rampage

San Bernardino Avenue, the scene of the mass shooting
San Bernardino Avenue, the scene of the mass shooting

Justin Pritchard San Bernardino

One moment, Syed Rizwan Farook was sitting at a table with colleagues at a holiday gathering for county health employees. Then suddenly he disappeared, leaving his coat on his chair.

The next time his co-workers saw him, he was dressed in battle gear and wielding an assault rifle.

Farook, a 28-year-old county restaurant inspector, and his wife or fiancée, Tashfeen Malik (27), slaughtered 14 people and seriously wounded more than a dozen others in a precision attack on Wednesday at a centre for the disabled, before they were gunned down in an SUV a few kilometres away in a shootout with police.

Farook was born in the US to a Pakistani family, was raised in Southern California and had been a San Bernardino County employee for five years, according to authorities and acquaintances.

Relatives said Farook had travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet his wife.

Police and federal agents for a second day searched a home in neighbouring Redlands, about 10km from the massacre at the Inland Regional Center.

Residents said Redlands is a sleepy town and expressed shock that the killers might be their neighbours.

The attackers invaded the centre about 100km east of Los Angeles around 11am, opening fire in a conference area where county health officials were having an employee banquet. Co-worker Patrick Baccari said he was sitting at the same table as Farook, who suddenly disappeared. Baccari said that when the shooting started, he took refuge in a bathroom and suffered minor wounds from shrapnel through the wall.

The shooting lasted about five minutes, he said.

Baccari described Farook as reserved and said he showed no signs of unusual behaviour. Earlier this year, he travelled to Saudi Arabia, was gone for about a month and returned with a wife, later growing a beard, Baccari said.

The couple dropped off their six-month-old daughter with relatives on Wednesday morning, saying they had a doctor's appointment, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said after talking with family.

"We don't know the motives. Is it work, rage-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.

Irish Independent

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