On Wednesday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, dropped off their six-month-old baby with Farook’s mother, saying they were going to a doctor’s appointment.
By noon, the couple had donned assault clothing, armed themselves with rifles and stormed a holiday party attended by San Bernardino County employees, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others.
Before sunset, after a shootout with police, they were both dead, leaving a grieving community with few clues to puzzle out the motive for the carnage.
Syed Farook, born in the United States, worked as an environmental health specialist for San Bernardino County, inspecting restaurants for health violations, according to authorities and a website that tracks public employees.
As part of his job, he also inspected public pools at locations including apartment and senior housing complexes and country clubs. Records show him performing these duties as recently as July.
While he appeared not to have profiles on popular social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, Farook was registered on at least two online dating sites – one for “Indian matrimonial and dating services,” and another described as a “legal marriage service provider in United Arab Emirates.”
It was unclear when he had created those profiles.
Co-workers told the Los Angeles Times that Farook, a U.S. citizen, had traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with his new wife, whom he had met online.
On the iMilap.com site, Farook described himself as a 22-year-old Muslim male living in Riverside, California, who was from a “religious but modern family of 4 – 2 girls, 2 boys” and worked for the county as a health, safety and environmental inspector.
He said he enjoyed working on vintage and modern cars, reading religious books and eating out on occasion.
“QUIET, NORMAL GUY”
On Wednesday, Farook attended an annual holiday gathering for employees of his department, then left, only to return later with Malik and weapons.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the shooting spree was clearly planned in advance and that the suspects had left several explosive devices, which appeared to be pipe bombs, at the scene of the massacre.
SueAnn Chapman, a cashier and waitress at China Doll Fast Food, a restaurant that Syed Farook had inspected earlier this year, said he didn’t seem unusual.
“He was real quiet,” Chapman said. “He checked the food and said he was here because somebody complained. … He looked completely normal.”
Burguan said he did not know whether Farook and Malik were married, but officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who had been in touch with the family said they were husband and wife.
The couple were married for two years and have a six-month-old baby girl, the executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush, told Reuters.
The pair left the infant early Wednesday with Farook’s mother in the nearby city of Redlands, Ayloush said, relaying information he had received from a brother-in-law of Farook. The couple told her they were headed to a doctor’s appointment for Malik.
Burguan said that police investigating the shooting went to a house in Redlands on Wednesday afternoon, and saw the couple take off in a black SUV. Police pursued the car to San Bernardino, where the gun battle ensued that left Farook and Malik dead.
Farook’s family was originally from South Asia, while Malik was believed to be from Pakistan and had lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States, Ayloush said. An older brother of Farook had served in the U.S. military, he said.
Public records suggest possible turbulence in Farook’s younger life.
In 2006, Rafia Farook, whom records indicate is Farook’s mother, filed in a Riverside court for divorce from her husband, also named Syed Farook.
She listed multiple instances of domestic abuse in the legal filing, and said her husband “threatens to kill himself on a daily basis.” During one incident, she said in a court filing, her son came between them “to save me.”
(Additional reporting by Angela Moon in New York, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Robin Respaut, Heather Somerville, Julia Love and Dan Levine in San Francisco and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sue Horton, Mary Milliken and Bernadette Baum)