A holiday party for San Bernardino county health workers at the Inland Regional Center for developmentally disabled ended suddenly when three masked shooters crashed the party.
It was a scene of carnage as armed terrorists, wearing black masks, camouflage fatigues and bullet vests opened fire at the happy workers.
The terrorists murdered 14 people and seriously wounded at least 17 others inside the conference room where the party was being held.
One of the shooters was later identified as 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook, according to the LA Times. Farook was married to the second shooter, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik. Both were U.S. citizens.
Police are searching for the third shooter. Sources said that person is a relative of Farook, not yet identified. Reportedly, a third person has been detained. It is not clear whether that person is a suspect or not.
When they ran out of bullets, all three took off in a black SUV, heading for the Farook home. Police caught up with them a few hours later, cornering Farook and his wife when they tried to flee in their SUV. In the shootout that followed, the vehicle was riddled with bullets, leaving both dead and blood running in the street.
According to numerous sources, Farook left the party, appearing “angry.” But investigators said Wednesday night that the motive for the massacre is still unclear.
“This was not a casual workplace argument,” a law enforcement source told the NY Post. “It’s a well-planned and thought-out attack.”
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan echoed that view, telling reporters, “Preliminary information indicates that these were people who came prepared, that they were dressed and equipped in a way to indicate that they were prepared… and they were armed with long guns, not handguns.”
Sappers were working late into the night to defuse an IED (improvised explosive device) discovered by police at the scene of the attack.
Several “items of concern” were also found inside the SUV used as an escape vehicle, he said, and authorities were working to determine whether any were explosive as well.
“Is this a terrorist incident? We do not know,” David Bowditch, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, told The Times. Terrorism has not been ruled out, he said later.
The young, bearded Farook was quiet, polite and well-liked by his colleagues. He had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned “with a woman he met online,” according to co-workers questioned by police. The couple had a baby and appeared to be “living the American dream,” said fellow food inspector Patrick Baccari, quoted by the LA Times.
Farook worked for the county health department as a “health technician,” inspecting restaurants and hotels, according to his father, who spoke with the New York Daily News.
Public records show Farook worked for the county health department as an “environmental health specialist,” earning a salary of $51,000 per year.
During a conference held late Wednesday night the Council on Islamic Relations in Anaheim condemned the attack. “The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence,” the group said in its statement.
At that news conference, Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, expressed shock at the news. “I have no idea why he would do that,” he said. “Why would he do something like that? I have no idea. I’m in shock myself.”
Hana Levi Julian