The 2015 San Bernardino Attack

The car after the shootout with police.
The car after the shootout with police.

On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, which consisted of a mass shooting and an attempted bombing. The perpetrators, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in the city of Redlands, targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and holiday party, of about 80 employees, in a rented banquet room. Farook was an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, who worked as a health department employee. Malik was a Pakistani-born lawful permanent resident of the United States.

After the shooting, the couple fled in a rented sport utility vehicle (SUV). Four hours later, police pursued their vehicle and killed them in a shootout. On December 3, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a counter-terrorism investigation. On December 6, 2015, in a prime-time address delivered from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama defined the shooting as an act of terrorism.

According to FBI Director James B. Comey, the FBI’s investigation revealed that the perpetrators were “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by foreign terrorist groups. They were not directed by such groups and were not part of any terrorist cell or network. FBI investigators have said that Farook and Malik had become radicalized over several years prior to the attack, consuming “poison on the internet” and expressing a commitment to jihadism and martyrdom in private messages to each other. Farook and Malik had traveled to Saudi Arabia in the years before the attack. The couple had amassed a large stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making equipment in their home.

Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend and former neighbor of Farook, was investigated in connection with his purchase of the two rifles used in the attack. Marquez was arrested on December 17, 2015, and charged with three federal criminal counts: conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, making a false statement in connection with acquisition of firearms, and immigration fraud. Federal prosecutors allege that in 2011, Farook and Marquez conspired to carry out shooting and bombing attacks, which they abandoned at the time.

The attack was the second-deadliest mass shooting in California after the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre, and the deadliest in the U.S. since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack to occur in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks.


– Inland Regional Center attack

Perpetrators Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother at their Redlands home the morning of the attack, saying they were going to a doctor’s appointment. Farook, a health inspector for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, attended a departmental event at the banquet room of the Inland Regional Center. The event began as a semi-annual all-staff meeting and training event, and was in the process of transitioning into a department holiday party/luncheon when the shooting began. There was a total of 91 invited guests, with 75–80 people stated to have been in attendance.

A – Site of shooting. B – Injured people treated. C – School for the blind where some took shelter while awaiting hospital treatment.
A – Site of shooting. B – Injured people treated. C – School for the blind where some took shelter while awaiting hospital treatment.

Coworkers reported that Farook had been quiet and left midway through the event. He posed for photos with other coworkers.

At 10:59 am PST, Farook and Malik, armed with semi-automatic pistols and rifles, opened fire on those in attendance. They wore ski masks and black tactical gear (including load-bearing vests holding magazines and ammunition), but not ballistic or bulletproof vests. The entire shooting took less than four minutes. They fired between 65 and 75 bullets. The perpetrators departed the scene before police arrived. An unidentified source told an NPR journalist that witnesses appeared to recognize Farook by his voice and build. Sources reported that Malik pledged bay’ah (allegiance) to the leader of ISIL on a Facebook account associated with her as the attack was underway. Later reports described the posting as being made on behalf of both shooters.

The perpetrators left three explosive devices connected to one another at the Inland Regional Center. The devices were described as pipe bombs constructed with Christmas lights and tied together, combined with a remote controlled car that was switched on. The poorly constructed devices failed to explode. Authorities believe that the pipe bombs were meant to target the emergency personnel responding to the scene. The device was hidden inside a canvas bag, and its build was similar to schematics published in Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine.

– Police response

It took four minutes for the first police unit to respond to the shooting following the initial 911 emergency call. At 11:14 am, the San Bernardino Fire Department made a Twitter post about an emergency on the 1300 block of Waterman Avenue, with the police working to clear the scene. Roads in the area were closed to traffic.

Two police officers arrived almost simultaneously; when another officer arrived two minutes later, the three officers entered the building and began to evacuate the survivors. The San Bernardino SWAT team happened to be conducting its monthly training exercise a few miles away from the scene at the time of the attack, which allowed them to quickly arrive at the scene. Ultimately, about 300 officers and agents from city, county, state and federal agencies responded to the active-shooter event, converging on the scene as people were being evacuated.

Police used a battering ram to get into the complex. The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department Counter-terrorism unit were called in to assist. Police were on the lookout for a black SUV used by the perpetrators to flee the scene.

The explosive devices placed by the perpetrators were later detonated by a bomb squad.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent a Pilatus PC-12 surveillance aircraft to the area, which circled the skies above San Bernardino for hours, mainly in the area where the shooting took place and in areas under investigation by police, and departed after the shootout between the perpetrators and police.

– Shootout

Law enforcement began the search for the suspects. A witness gave Farook’s name to police, who quickly learned that he had rented a black Ford Expedition SUV with Utah license plates four days before the attack. Based on information provided by one of Farook’s neighbors, officers went to the perpetrators’ Redlands home on North Center Street for surveillance and gave chase when the perpetrators fled the house. At least one fake explosive‍—‌a metal pipe stuffed with cloth made to resemble a pipe bomb‍—‌was thrown at the police during the pursuit. After the SUV was stopped, the couple exchanged fire with police from inside their vehicle on East San Bernardino Avenue, about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) away from the scene of the mass shooting. It began around 3:00 pm, about four hours after the initial attack at the Inland Regional Center had begun. Police used BearCat armored personnel carriers in confronting the shooters.

The shooters' Ford Expedition SUV, involved in the shootout.
The shooters’ Ford Expedition SUV, involved in the shootout.

The gunfire lasted for around five minutes before both perpetrators were killed. The sheriff’s department confirmed that a man and a woman were killed. One of the shooters died outside the SUV while getting out and trying to cross the street, while the other shooter died inside the vehicle.

The shootout occurred on the south side of San Bernardino Avenue just east of Sheddon Drive; the red A marks the location of the Inland Regional Center.
The shootout occurred on the south side of San Bernardino Avenue just east of Sheddon Drive; the red A marks the location of the Inland Regional Center.

Seven police agencies were involved in the final shootout, with 23 officers firing a combined total of approximately 380 rounds. The perpetrators fired 76 rifle rounds. During the shootout, police asked residents to stay indoors.

Initial news reports and witness accounts led to a search for up to three shooters, but police eventually determined that there were only two since only two firearms were used in the attack according to ballistics evidence. Investigators in armored vehicles at the townhouse of the perpetrators considered ordering an evacuation, but instead ordered the neighborhood to shelter in place and cordoned off the area. From 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, police asked residents of the area to stay in their homes with doors locked and secure after residents reported a person jumping fences. No one was found; the reports may have been from officers at the scene. A person detained after running away from the scene of the shootout was thought to be a possible third suspect, but police determined that he was not connected to the shooting; the person was booked on an unrelated outstanding misdemeanor warrant.


In the Inland Regional Center attack, 14 civilians were killed, and 22 others were seriously injured, either by gunshot wounds or other causes. Once the injured were extracted from the building, it took about 15 minutes for them to get to the hospital. Five patients were transported to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center and six were transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. One police officer was hospitalized with a bullet wound suffered during the gunfight; another officer was injured by flying glass or shrapnel. The last of those hospitalized for injuries sustained in the attack was discharged from Loma Linda University Medical Center on March 3, 2016, over three months after the event.

The victims
The victims

The fourteen deceased ranged in age from 26 to 60. Nine were residents of San Bernardino County; the others were from nearby Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. Three of the deceased victims‍—‌Isaac Amanios, Bennetta Betbadal and Tin Nguyen‍—‌had come to the United States to escape violence or persecution in their home countries. Twelve of the fourteen dead were county employees; ten were environmental health specialists.

Name Age
Robert Adams 40
Isaac Amanios 60
Bennetta Betbadal 46
Harry Bowman 46
Sierra Clayborn 27
Juan Espinoza 50
Aurora Godoy 26
Shannon Johnson 45
Larry Daniel Kaufman 42
Damian Meins 58
Tin Nguyen 31
Nicholas Thalasinos 52
Yvette Velasco 27
Michael Wetzel 37


Two perpetrators of the attack were identified by the police, married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.

– Rizwan Farook

Rizwan Farook
Rizwan Farook
Born June 14, 1987
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 2, 2015 (aged 28)
San Bernardino, California, U.S.
Cause of death Multiple gunshots by police
Education California State University, San Bernardino (B.S. Environmental health)
Religion Sunni Islam
Spouse(s) Tashfeen Malik (m. 2014–15)
Children 1 daughter (b. 2015)
Relatives 1 brother, 2 sisters

Syed Rizwan Farook (June 14, 1987 – December 2, 2015) was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was a U.S. citizen. His parents had immigrated from Pakistan.

Personal Life

According to sources, Farook had a “troubled childhood” and grew up in an “abusive” home. Farook grew up in Riverside, California, and attended La Sierra High School, graduating in 2004, one year early. He attended California State University, San Bernardino, and received a bachelor’s degree in environmental health in either 2009 or 2010. He was a student for one semester in 2014 at California State University, Fullerton in their graduate program for environmental engineering, but never completed the program.

Farook had a profile on the dating website, in which he listed backyard target practice as a hobby. A lawyer for Farook’s family also said that he would go to firing ranges by himself.

Farook worked as a food inspector for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for five years before the shooting. From July to December 2010, he was a seasonal employee for the county. He was hired as an environmental health specialist trainee on January 28, 2012, and became a permanent employee on February 8, 2014. Coworkers described Farook as quiet and polite, and said that he held no obvious grudges. Two weeks before the attack, he reportedly tried to explain, during an office conversation, that Islam was a peaceful religion.

Religious views and travels

According to family members and coworkers, Farook was a devout Sunni Muslim, and traveled to Saudi Arabia several times, including to complete the Hajj in 2013.[19][62] Farook attended prayers at the Islamic Center of Riverside twice a day, in the mornings and the evenings, according to an interview in The New York Times with Mustafa H. Kuko, the Center’s director. According to the Times, Farook stood out as especially devout and “kept a bit of a distance” from other congregants. During that time, according to friends, he never discussed politics. Farook abruptly stopped going to the mosque in 2014 following his marriage.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that Farook’s father said that his son “shared the ideology of Al Baghdadi to create an Islamic state” and that he was fixated with Israel. A spokesperson for the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other sources said the father did not recall making these statements about his son.

– Tashfeen Malik

Tashfeen Malik
Tashfeen Malik
Born July 13, 1986
Karor Lal Esan, Pakistan
Died December 2, 2015 (aged 29)
San Bernardino, California, U.S.
Cause of death Multiple gunshots by police
Education Bahauddin Zakariya University
Religion Sunni Islam
Spouse(s) Syed Rizwan Farook (m. 2014–15)
Children 1 daughter (b. 2015)

Tashfeen Malik (July 13, 1986 – December 2, 2015) was born in Pakistan but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia. Her original hometown was Karor Lal Esan, 280 miles (450 km) southwest of Islamabad, Pakistan. Her landowning family was described as politically influential in the town.

Studies in Multan

Malik returned to Pakistan to study pharmacology at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, beginning the program in 2007 and graduating in 2012. Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al-Turki denied reports that Malik grew up in his country, saying that she only visited Saudi Arabia for a few weeks in 2008 and again in 2013. The city of Multan has been linked to jihadist activity.

While in Multan, Malik attended the local center of the Al-Huda International Seminary, a women-only religious academy network with seminaries across Pakistan and branches in the U.S. and Canada that was founded in 1994. The school is aligned with the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam. According to school records, Malik enrolled in an eighteen-month Quranic studies course with Al-Huda on April 17, 2013, and left on May 3, 2014, telling administrators that she was leaving to get married. Malik expressed an interest in completing the course by correspondence, but never did so.

According to experts, Al-Huda “draws much of its support from women from educated, relatively affluent backgrounds.” Faiza Mushtaq, a Pakistani scholar that studied the organization, said that “these Al-Huda classes is teaching these urban, educated, upper-middle-class women a very conservative interpretation of Islam that makes them very judgmental about others around them.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Al-Huda seminaries promote anti-Western views and hard-line practices in a fashion that “could encourage some adherents to lash out against non-believers.” The New York Times reported that the institute “teaches a strict literalist interpretation of the Quran, although it does not advocate violent jihad.” An Al-Huda administrator from the head office in Islamabad, said that terrorism “is against the teachings of Islam” and that the school’s curriculum did not endorse violence.

Marriage and entry into United States

According to one of Farook’s coworkers, Malik and her husband married about a month after he traveled to Saudi Arabia in early 2014; the two had met over the internet. Malik joined Farook in California shortly after their wedding. A U.S. marriage certificate reported their marriage in Riverside on August 16, 2014. At the time of her death, Malik and Farook had a six-month-old daughter.

Malik entered the United States on a K-1 (fiancée) visa with a Pakistani passport. According to a State Department spokesman, all applicants for such visas are fully screened. Malik’s application for permanent residency (a “green card”) was completed by Farook on her behalf in September 2014, and she was granted a conditional green card in July 2015. Obtaining such a green card would have required the couple to prove that the marriage was legitimate. As is standard practice, as part of her visa application with the State Department and application for a green card, Malik submitted her fingerprints and underwent “three extensive national security and criminal background screenings” using Homeland Security and State Department databases. Malik also underwent two in-person interviews, the first with a consular officer in Pakistan and the second with an immigration officer in the U.S. after applying for a green card. No irregularities or signs of suspicion were found in the record of Malik’s interview with the Pakistani consular officer.

On December 16, 2015, FBI Director James Comey said: “We can see from our investigation that in late 2013, before there is a physical meeting of these two people (Farook and Malik) resulting in their engagement and then journey to the United States, they are communicating online, showing signs in that communication of their joint commitment to jihadism and to martyrdom. Those communications are direct, private messages.” Early reports had erroneously stated that Malik had openly expressed jihadist beliefs on social media, leading to calls for U.S. immigration officials to routinely review social media as part of background checks, which is not part of the current procedure. Comey subsequently clarified that the remarks were “direct private messages” that were not publicly accessible and that “So far, in this investigation, we have found no evidence of posting on social media.”

Comey said that the FBI’s investigation had revealed that Farook and Malik were “consuming poison on the Internet” and both had become radicalized “before they started courting or dating each other online” and “before the emergence of ISIL.” As a result, Comey said that “untangling the motivations of which particular terrorist propaganda motivated in what way remains a challenge in these investigations, and our work is ongoing there.”

Malik reportedly had become very religious in the years before the attack, wearing both the niqab and burqa while urging others to do so as well. Pakistani media reported that Malik had ties to the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad, but a cleric and a spokesman from the mosque vehemently denied these claims, saying that they had never heard of Malik before the shooting. Malik’s estranged relatives say that she had left the moderate Islam of her family and had become radicalized while living in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Al-Turki rejected this claim, stating that Saudi officials received no indication that Malik was radicalized while living there.

Malik was one of a small number of female mass shooters in the U.S.; women constituted only 3.75 percent of active shooters in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013.


Neither shooter had a criminal record, and neither was on Terrorist Screening Database lists. The New York Times reported that “by all accounts so far, the government had no concrete intelligence warning of the assault,” although the federal government has long feared “homegrown, self-radicalized individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets” in the United States.

On December 3, 2015, the FBI took over as the leading federal law enforcement agency on the case, treating the probe as a counter-terrorism investigation. The FBI is conducting a “massive” investigation, and by December 7, 2015, had already conducted about 400 interviews and collected about 320 pieces of evidence. On January 5, 2016, the FBI began investigating what the perpetrators’ activities were during an 18-minute period from 12:59 pm to 1:17 pm on the day of the shooting, and they appealed to the public for assistance. Investigators believe that the two were driving around the city in an apparent attempt to remotely detonate the explosive device they left behind at the scene of the attack.

On February 18, 2016, the FBI revealed that they have not ruled out the possibility of a third shooter, though they continued operating under the assumption that only two shooters were involved. Some witnesses who claimed to have seen three gunmen at the Inland Regional Center continued to assert their accounts.

– Weapons

The attackers used two .223-caliber semi-automatic rifles, two 9 mm caliber semi-automatic pistols, and an explosive device in the attack. The rifles used were variants of the AR-15: one was a DPMS Panther Arms A15, the other was a Smith & Wesson M&P15.

The four guns used by the shooters.
The four guns used by the shooters.

The two rifles were purchased by Marquez, and then illegally transferred to Farook. The two pistols were legally purchased by Farook from federally licensed firearms dealers in California in 2011 and 2012. The two handguns were purchased by Farook from a dealer in Corona. One of the handguns was manufactured by Llama and the other is a Springfield XD.

Tactical belt used by one of the shooters.
Tactical belt used by one of the shooters.

The couple altered the guns: there was a failed attempt to modify the Smith & Wesson rifle to fire in fully automatic mode, they made a modification that defeated the ban on detachable magazines, and they used a detachable high-capacity magazine. California laws limit magazines to a maximum of ten rounds, and the magazine must be fixed by a recessed button mechanism to the rifle and require a tool such as a bullet, pen, or other implement to remove it, thereby creating a delay in the rate at which spent magazines can be replaced. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the modifications made the guns illegal assault weapons. The couple had a total of 1,600 rounds (1,400 for the rifles and 200 for the handguns) with them at the time of the shootout.

– Searches

After the deaths of the perpetrators, the focus shifted to a small townhouse in Redlands, a few miles away from San Bernardino; the place where Farook and Malik met after the shooting and where they lived. By 6:00 pm PST on December 2, 2015, police were executing a search warrant on the house. According to the San Bernardino police chief, Farook and Malik were listed in the rental agreement. Police used robots to search the house. Investigators found 2,000 9-mm handgun rounds, 2,500 .223-caliber rounds, and the tools that could be used to make improvised explosive devices. The FBI also initially reported that it had removed twelve pipe bombs from the perpetrators’ home; the FBI clarified several days later that it had recovered 19 types of pipes that could be converted into bombs from the home.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was able to complete an “urgent trace” on the firearms less than two hours after the guns were recovered.

The couple was not completely successful in destroying their personal electronics, including mobile phones and hard drives, prior to the attack.

Pursuant to a federal search warrant, the authorities also searched a townhouse in Corona twice, where Farook’s brother and father lived. The FBI said that the family was cooperating and authorities did not arrest anyone.

On December 10, 2015, federal authorities began searching Seccombe Lake park in downtown San Bernardino after receiving a tip that the shooters visited the area on the day of the attack. A dive team was sent into the shallow edge of the lake to search for evidence; nothing relevant was found.

Media reporters enter shooters’ home

After the FBI completed a search of the perpetrators’ townhouse, it was turned over to its landlord. On December 4, 2015, the landlord used a crowbar to open the door to the home and allowed reporters and photographers to “swarm” the home. NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders said that Inside Edition has paid the building’s landlord US$1,000 to access the home. MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News all broadcast live video from the home, showing images of personal photographs, documents, identification cards, and baby items.

The scene was described as having a “media circus” atmosphere. Sanders, in particular, was criticized for showing close-up images of children’s photographs and Farook’s mother’s identification card; the network later said it regretted doing so. According to legal experts, the broadcast was not illegal, but it raised concerns about journalistic ethics. The Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that the media’s behavior was “terrible” and opined that “this was a story poorly suited to live coverage, without the time and ability to document a scene, determine what’s relevant and provide the filtered product to readers.” Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said that the decision to enter the apartment was “ludicrous” and critiqued the “callous and competitive behavior” of the media on a grave story.

Shooting range video

After law enforcement sources confirmed that Farook spent time on November 29–30, 2015, at the Riverside Magnum Shooting Range, about 25 miles (40 km) away from the couple’s Redlands home, the FBI obtained surveillance video from the range. During these visits, one lasting several hours, Farook shot an AR-15 and a pistol, which he had brought to the range.

Bank transaction

Two weeks before the shooting Farook took out a loan of US$28,500 which was deposited in his bank account. The San Francisco-based online lender Prosper Marketplace made the loan to Farook; Prosper evaluates borrowers and the loans are originated by a third-party bank, the Salt Lake City-based On or about November 20, 2015, Farook withdrew US$10,000 in cash, and later on two US$5,000 transfers were made to what appears to be Farook’s mother’s bank account. Investigators were exploring the possibility that the US$10,000 was used to reimburse someone for the purchase of the rifles used in the shooting. WebBank said that it was fully cooperating with the investigation.

Phone decryption

On February 9, 2016, the FBI announced that it was unable to unlock one of the mobile phones they recovered, a county-owned iPhone 5C issued to its employee, shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, due to its advanced security features. As a result, the FBI asked Apple Inc. to create a new version of the phone’s iOS operating system that could be installed and run in the phone’s random access memory to disable certain security features. Apple declined due to its policy to never undermine the security features of its products. The FBI responded by successfully applying to a United States magistrate judge, Sherri Pym, to issue a court order, mandating Apple to create and provide the requested software. The order was not a subpoena, but rather was issued under the All Writs Act of 1789.

Apple announced their intent to oppose the order, citing the security risks that the creation of a backdoor would pose towards their customers. It also stated that no government had ever asked for similar access. The company was given until February 26, 2016, to fully respond to the court order.

In response to the opposition, on February 19, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a new application urging a federal judge to compel Apple to comply with the order. The new application stated that the company could install the malware on the phone in its own premises, and after the FBI had hacked the phone via remote connection, Apple could remove and destroy the malware.

The same day, Apple revealed that it had discussed with the FBI four methods to access data in the iPhone in early January, but one of the more promising methods was ruled out by a mistake during the investigation of the attack. After the shooter’s phone had been recovered, the FBI asked San Bernardino County, the owner of the phone, to reset the password to the shooter’s iCloud account in order to acquire data from the iCloud backup. However, this rendered the phone unable to back up recent data to iCloud unless its pass-code is entered. This was confirmed by the Department of Justice, which then added that any backup would have been “insufficient” because they would not have been able to recover enough information from it.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney, Michael Ramos, filed a brief claiming the iPhone may contain evidence of a possible third shooter and a “dormant cyber pathogen” that could have been introduced into the San Bernardino County computer network.

On March 28, the Department of Justice announced that it had unlocked the iPhone and withdrew its suit. Initial reports, citing anonymous sources, stated that Israeli company Cellebrite was assisting the FBI with this alternative. However, The Washington Post reported that (according to anonymous “people familiar with the matter”) the FBI instead paid “professional hackers” who used a zero-day vulnerability in the iPhone’s software to bypass its ten-try limitation, and did not need Cellebrite’s assistance.

National reactions to Apple’s opposition of the order were mixed. A CBS News poll that sampled 1,022 Americans found that 50% of the respondents supported the FBI’s stance, while 45% supported Apple’s stance.

– Motive and planning of the attack

In Senate Judiciary Committee testimony given on December 9, 2015, FBI Director James B. Comey said that the FBI investigation has shown that the shooters were “homegrown violent extremists” who were “inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.” Comey also said that the attackers “were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom,” before their engagement and as early as the end of 2013. The shooters reportedly spent at least a year preparing for the attack, including taking target practice and making plans to take care of their child and Farook’s mother. Comey has said that although the investigation has shown that the killers were radicalized and possibly inspired by foreign terrorist organizations, there is no indication that the couple were directed by such a group or part of a broader cell or network.

The FBI has said that there were “telephonic connections” between the couple and other people of interest in FBI probes. Comey said that the case did not follow the typical pattern for mass shootings or terrorist attacks. A senior U.S. law enforcement official said that Farook contacted “persons of interest” who were possibly tied to terrorism, although these contacts were not “substantial.” A senior federal official said that Farook had some contact with people from the Nusra Front, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and Shabaab of Somalia, but specifics were unclear.

In one Arabic-language online radio broadcast, ISIL described the couple as “supporters”; The New York Times reported that this language indicates “a less direct connection” between the shooters and the terrorist group. In a December 5, 2015, English-language broadcast on its Bayan radio station, ISIL referred to the two shooters as “soldiers of the caliphate,” which is a phrase ISIL uses to denote members of the terrorist organization. The New York Times reported that it was unclear why the two versions differed.

The large stockpile of weapons used by the shooters led investigators to believe that they intended to carry out further attacks. An examination of digital equipment recovered from their home suggested that the couple was in the final planning stages of a much larger attack.

Related arrests and prosecutions

– Enrique Marquez Jr.

Enrique Marquez Jr., a next-door neighbor of Farook’s until May 2015 who is related to him by marriage, was investigated in connection with his purchase of the two rifles used in the attack. There is no record of a transfer of the weapons from Marquez to the attackers.

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Enrique Marquez Jr.
Enrique Marquez Jr.

Personal background

Marquez converted to Islam in 2007. Though not regularly, Marquez attended both the Islamic Center of Riverside and the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco four or five years before the attack, and stood out because of his Hispanic background.

Federal prosecutors allege that in 2011, Farook and Marquez conspired to carry out shooting and bombing attacks at the library or cafeteria at Riverside Community College, where both were students, and on rush-hour traffic on California State Route 91 in Corona. The attack on SR 91 would have involved pipe bombs disrupting traffic at a section lacking nearby exits, followed by Farook walking through blocked traffic and shooting at the occupants of cars while Marquez shot at first responders from a different vantage point. Marquez reportedly told authorities that he and Farook tried to carry out the attack in 2011 or 2012. This plan was abandoned after three men in the Inland Empire were arrested for their plan to kill Americans in Afghanistan.

By 2011, Marquez spent most of his time in Farook’s home, listening to, watching, and reading radical Islamist propaganda, including Inspire magazine, the official publication of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and videos produced by Al-Shabaab as well as the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki.

On November 29, 2014, Marquez entered into a sham marriage with Mariya Chernykh, a Russian woman who arrived in the U.S. on a J-1 visa and the sister of the wife of Farook’s older brother. According to The New York Times, Marquez was said to have been paid between $5,000 and $10,000 to enter the green card marriage so that Chernykh could become a U.S. citizen.

Early on December 5, 2015, federal authorities searched Marquez’s Riverside home under a federal search warrant. Marquez was not initially charged with a crime or detained by authorities. He waived his Miranda rights and cooperated “extensively” with federal investigators, “discussing at length his relationship with” Farook.

Arrest and legal proceedings

On December 17, 2015, Marquez was arrested and charged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with three federal criminal counts: conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism (i.e., himself, a firearm, and explosives); making a false statement in connection with acquisition of firearms (“straw purchase”); and immigration fraud. Another “straw purchase”-related charge and another immigration fraud charge was added on December 30, 2015. He faces a maximum of 50 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges.

At a December 21, 2015, hearing in federal court in Riverside, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow ordered Marquez held without bail, saying that Marquez would pose a danger to the community if released.

Marquez reappeared in court on January 6, 2016. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him. His trial was initially scheduled to begin on February 23, 2016, though it was postponed to July 19, 2016. He will make his next court appearance on June 27, 2016. On April 28, 2016, he was named in an indictment as a co-conspirator in document fraud in relation to the arrest of Mariya Chernynk.

– Raheel Farook, Tatiana Farook, and Mariya Chernynk

Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of gunman Rizwan Farook, 31; his wife Tatiana Farook, 31; and her sister Mariya Chernynk, who was Marquez’s “wife” in the sham marriage, were all subject to an investigation into Chernynk’s sham marriage with Marquez, which arose during the investigation into the attack.

Personal backgrounds

Raheel Farook served in the U.S. Navy in the Iraq War from 2003 to 2007, and was awarded two medals for service during the War on Terror. He was described by friends and neighbors as sociable and extroverted compared with his brother Rizwan. In 2011, he married Tatiana, a Russian citizen who immigrated to the U.S.

Mariya Chernynk, the younger sister of Tatiana Farook, left Russia and entered the U.S. on a J-1 visa in July 2009 and failed to depart on October 30 of the same year as required by her visa. At some point since her arrival in the U.S., she made an application for asylum, though it is currently unknown if it was ruled on. She dated a Los Angeles man for years and had a child with him, but were forced to split up due to the sham marriage. On November 29, 2014, Chernynk entered into a sham marriage with Marquez in order to gain legal status in the U.S. According to the Los Angeles Times, after the sham marriage, Chernynk struggled to play her part; on Christmas 2014, she was urged by Tatiana to stop posting online photos of herself with her ex-boyfriend.

In late 2015, Chernynk and Marquez were set to be interviewed by immigration officials. As a result, according to the indictment, Raheel Farook created a fraudulent back-dated lease agreement that claimed the two were living with him and his wife since their marriage. Raheel and Tatiana Farook also allegedly staged family photos of Chernynk and Marquez, and established a joint transaction account for them. Prosecutors allege that on December 3, the day after the Inland Regional Center attack, Tatiana Farook lied to investigators about Chernynk and Marquez’s marriage.

On February 18, 2016, the FBI searched a residence belonging to Raheel Farook, but did not comment on the exact nature of the search. Raheel was not arrested or named a suspect at that time.

Arrests and legal proceedings

On April 28, 2016, the Farooks and Chernynk were arrested and charged with conspiracy to knowingly make false statements under oath with respect to immigration documents. These charges carry a maximum sentence of five years. Chernykh was additionally charged with document fraud, perjury, and two counts of making false statements to federal agents, amounting to a total of five counts filed against Chernykh; if convicted, Chernykh could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison.

All three pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in a federal court in Riverside. Raheel Farook’s mother and Chernynk’s ex-boyfriend agreed to post their bails. A trial date was set for June 21, 2016, at a Los Angeles court.

The day following her arrest, Chernynk posted her bail, but she was transferred to the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the U.S. Marshals Service and is being held at Adelanto Detention Center. She awaits a separate deportation hearing.

U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker issued a statement, saying that the charges arose from the investigation into the attack. The indictment alleged that Chernykh paid Marquez to enter into a sham marriage so that Chernykh, a Russian citizen, could obtain U.S. immigration benefits otherwise unavailable to her. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Raheel and Tatiana Farook conspired in the sham marriage by “witnessing Marquez and Chernykh’s wedding, taking staged family pictures of Marquez and Chernykh, establishing a joint checking account for the couple and creating a back-dated lease for Marquez and Chernykh to create the illusion that they shared a marital residence.”


– Local and county reactions

After the attack, classes were canceled at California State University, San Bernardino and at Loma Linda University following a bomb threat that was called in to the university’s medical center, where many injured victims were being treated.

Following the attack, county offices, including the Department of Public Health, were closed the remainder of the week, with only the most essential services remaining open. Most of the county’s 20,000 employees returned to work on December 7, 2015, though Inland Regional Center personnel worked remotely. The Inland Regional Center remained closed until January 4, 2016. Its two main buildings now operated under heightened security; the building where the attack took place will remain closed indefinitely.

The City of San Bernardino incurred up to $1 million in unforeseen expenses (such as the deployment of more police officers on extended shifts) as a result of the attack, and planned to seek state and federal emergency funds to help cover the costs. California Governor Jerry Brown later declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County, since a majority of the Department of Public Health employees were largely among those killed or wounded in the attack, leaving the county with very few health inspectors to do critical work. The emergency declaration will allow the state of California to send in additional health inspectors for assistance. On March 22, 2016, San Bernardino County unanimously voted to accept a $1.5 million agreement with the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators to provide up to 30 temporary health inspectors to replace those currently on leave.

About 2,000 local residents gathered at a candlelight vigil at San Manuel Stadium in downtown San Bernardino the day after the attack. At the vigil, Mayor R. Carey Davis praised the first responders, said that the tragedy “has forever impacted our community,” and talked about how the community had come together following the attack. Five of the victims and one of the killers were graduates of California State University, San Bernardino; on December 8, 2015, more than 1,000 students, alumni, and community members attended a candlelight vigil on campus in honor of the victims. On January 4, 2016, a memorial for the slain victims was held at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in nearby Ontario, with thousands in attendance, including Governor Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Christian pastor Rick Warren.

After the attack, a relief fund for San Bernardino was set up and has raised $2.48 million as of March 3, 2016.

On January 13, 2016, the wife of one of the slain victims filed wrongful death claims against San Bernardino County and dozens of unidentified individuals, and also sought damages totaling $58 million, saying that her husband’s death was preventable and caused by negligence. On January 22, 2016, three relatives of another slain victim filed identical claims against the county for similar reasons and also claimed that the county fostered a hostile workplace environment and failed to provide safety to the Inland Regional Center’s employees. The three relatives sought for a total of $204 million.

At least five San Bernardino city residents filed claims with the City of San Bernardino seeking reimbursement for least $12,000 in property damage caused by bullets in the shootout, which hit a resident’s truck and other items; the City Council voted 5-2 to deny the claims. The city police were one of seven law enforcement agencies on the scene, and it is uncertain which agency fired what bullets.

On March 18, 2016, California State Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management conducted a hearing in which first responders were to share details of the response to the attack and possible aspects that could be improved on. During the hearing, Michael Madden, a lieutenant with the San Bernardino Police Department and one of the first responders to respond to the Inland Regional Center, requested state aid in encrypting police radio channels. He explained that police communications were playing out real-time across the U.S. during the attack, being broadcast on YouTube and other network systems. According to Madden, this put first responders at risk, as potential suspects could have been monitoring the communications and tracking the actions of law enforcement. He added that the City of San Bernardino, as well as San Bernardino County, were moving towards a radio system that will incorporate encrypted frequencies.

On April 20, 2016, California state lawmakers gave initial approval to five gun control bills, which outlawed assault rifles with detachable magazines, prohibited the sale of rifles with the “bullet button” device, banned possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds, required the collection of information on people intending to buy ammunition for any kind of firearm, and required improvised firearms to be registered with the state and given a serial number. The measures have been opposed by a number of politicians and gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of California.

– Nationwide reactions

President Barack Obama ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House, public buildings, military installations, Navy ships, embassies, and diplomatic missions. On December 18, 2015, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met in San Bernardino with survivors, families of the fatal victims, and emergency personnel who first responded to the incident.

The governors of several states also ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in their states as well. In California, the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the State Capitol was canceled and all flags were lowered to half-staff.

Twelve of the dead were members of the Service Employees International Union; SEIU international president Mary Kay Henry said, “Our hearts are broken from this tragedy. We will unite to demand that our nation does everything possible to ensure that no more families have to feel this pain, sadness and loss ever again.”

– Muslim reaction

American Muslim organizations, including Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society of Orange County, condemned the attacks. A night vigil was held the day after the attacks at the largest mosque in the San Bernardino County, the Ahmadiyya Baitul Hameed Mosque.

In the aftermath of the shooting, CAIR reported an escalation in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S., including the throwing of a pig’s head at a mosque in Philadelphia, the beating of a Queens shop owner, and incidents of death threats and vandalism. A number of attacks and incidents of vandalism in southern California in the weeks following the attack were investigated as anti-Muslim hate crimes.

A “Muslims United for San Bernardino” campaign to raise money to assist victims’ families with funeral expenses and other needs raised more than US$152,000 from more than 1,000 donors, becoming the most successful crowdfunding venture Muslim Americans have ever launched.

On December 15, 2015, three senior White House officials‍—‌Valerie Jarrett, Cecilia Munoz, and Ben Rhodes‍—‌met with American Muslim and Sikh leaders to discuss the increase in violent attacks upon members of the American Muslim and Sikh community following the attack (Sikhs are not Muslims but have been occasionally targeted in anti-Islamic bias-motivated crimes).

On January 19, 2016, Dabiq, the online propaganda magazine of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, released an issue praising the shooting and the perpetrators.

– Political reactions

Governor Brown said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and everyone affected by the brutal attack.”

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the Pakistani government will continue to offer “all possible legal assistance” to the U.S. in the investigation, and that:

“No sane Pakistani or Muslim could even think about doing such acts, and only few people are using the name of Islam for their wrongdoings, which is defaming our religion. Such heinous acts also lead to serious difficulties for millions of Muslims who live in Western and other countries, and the extremists and nationalist elements in those societies look at Muslims with suspicions. Islamophobia is being spread around the world. What the terrorists are doing has nothing to do with Islam.”

In an address to the nation delivered from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015, President Obama declared the shooting an act of terrorism, referring to the shooters as having “gone down the dark path of radicalization” and embracing a “perverted version of Islam.” Obama said that “the threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it” and promised that the United States will “destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.” Obama also outlined the ongoing fight against ISIL (including U.S. airstrikes, financial sanctions, and targeted special operations) and urged Americans to not give in to fear. It was just the third speech from the Oval Office in the seven years of Obama’s presidency.

Many Republican U.S. presidential candidates at the time, among them Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, responded by claiming the United States was at war. Chris Christie, who was campaigning in Iowa at the time, declared, “What the fact is this is a new world war and one that won’t look like the last two. And this is one where it’s radical Islamic jihadists everyday are trying to kill Americans and disrupt and destroy our way of life.” Jeb Bush stated, “If this is a war, and I believe it is since they have declared war on us, we need to declare war on them.” In the New York Review of Books, Wyatt Mason observed that a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, committed by a devout Christian a week earlier, did not lead to the kind of rhetorical outpouring produced by the San Bernardino attack, and argued that the difference in response suggested racism was at work.


In response to the shooting, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump’s statement drew widespead condemnation, including from the White House, which said that a plan to exclude all Muslims from the U.S. would violate the presidential oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution; the Pentagon, which issued a rare statement of concern, stating “anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security”; the United Nations; and foreign leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Trump’s suggestion was met with condemnation from both Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency in 2016. Trump, in an interview on Good Morning America, cited the internment of Japanese Americans, German Americans, and Italian Americans during World War II as precedent for his proposal.

The attack reignited the debate over whether U.S. government should expand electronic surveillance of Americans, and specifically whether Congress should adopt legislation mandating that technology companies provide a backdoor so that law enforcement has access to encrypted communication. Technology companies oppose such legislation, arguing that it would unacceptably undermine security. At a December 9, 2015, hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Comey called upon tech companies offering end-to-end encryption (such as Apple) to revise their “business model.” There is no evidence that the shooters in San Bernardino used encrypted communications, although Comey said the attackers in the Curtis Culwell Center attack earlier the same year exchanged encrypted text messages. Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are working on encryption legislation. Additionally, Feinstein reintroduced legislation that would require tech companies to report “knowledge of any terrorist activity” they become aware of, a measure that worried Silicon Valley technology companies, which object to such measures on privacy grounds.

The use of BearCat armored vehicles by police during the shootout revived debate over use of military and military-style equipment by police, with some law-enforcement officials saying that the shooting showed a need for police to acquire such equipment.

Calls for gun Control

President Obama called for “common-sense” gun safety laws and stronger background checks as part of a bipartisan effort to reduce the frequency of such shootings. In an interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Obama said, “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.” Obama called for legislation to block people on the anti-terrorism No Fly List from purchasing weapons. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan opposed this proposal, saying that denying persons on the list the right to bear arms would violate their due process rights.

After the shooting, some Democrats sought to tighten federal gun control regulations, “laying blame on a culture that allows even people who are not permitted to board airplanes to buy guns with ease,” while some Republicans criticized what they believe to be “the Obama administration’s unwillingness to come to terms with the true threat posed by Muslim extremists.” Members of the California State Legislature also proposed to revisit some gun-control proposals that had previously stalled, with one assemblyman proposing a prohibition of the sale of guns to those on the federal No Fly List. On January 8, 2016, Representative Pete Aguilar of Redlands spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives and called for gun control. After the shooting, gun sales in California increased by more than 18,000, following an overall down year for statewide sales. Applications for concealed carry permits also rose 750 percent in San Bernardino County.

The families of the shooting victims reacted to President Obama’s executive action to tighten gun regulation and expand background checks. A number of family members expressed support for the plans as necessary and long overdue, while a few doubted whether they would reduce gun violence.

The New York Times published a front-page editorial, the first in 95 years, which called for gun-control measures. The Times editorial board wrote: “It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of the Times, said the placement of the editorial on the front page was “to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns.” Callum Borchers wrote in The Washington Post that, “The placement is certainly an attention-grabber but, if you focus on what the Times said, instead of where it said it, there’s really no shock value.”

– Funeral and interment of perpetrators

After Malik and Farook’s corpses were released by law enforcement, local Islamic cemeteries refused to accept the remains. It took a week to find a willing cemetery, and the burial ultimately took place at an undisclosed location hours from San Bernardino. According to two members of the mosque, many of the city’s Muslim community refused to attend the funeral on December 15, 2015, which was attended by around ten mourners including relatives of Farook.

– Threats against schools

On December 15, 2015, after the Los Angeles Unified School District received a threat of attack by “explosive devices” and other means, Superintendent of Schools Ramon Cortines ordered the closure of all schools in the district for the day. Cortines cited the San Bernardino incident as an influence in his decision to close the schools. New York City received the same threat, but the New York City Department of Education determined it was a hoax and took no action.




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