Official: San Bernadino shooter sought guns from friend to avoid arousing suspicion
By THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF, ADAM GOLDMAN AND MARK BERMAN | The Washington Post | Published: December 11, 2015
One of the attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., last week, received the assault rifles used in the massacre from a friend to avoid arousing suspicion by purchasing them himself, a law enforcement official said Friday.
Even as the FBI continue exploring the husband-and-wife killers and whether they had any other possible targets in mind, the investigation has expanded as the FBI questions a growing network of people with ties to the couple.
Authorities have focused on Enrique Marquez, who was a neighbor and friend of Syed Farook, one of the two attackers. Marquez provided the rifles used by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, in the assault last week.
Marquez has been interviewed multiple times during the investigation, and a senior law enforcement official said Friday that he has "come clean" with authorities by cooperating fully.
Marquez said that Farook sought the weapons from him in an effort to cover his tracks, since Farook thought buying the guns could draw attention, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. However, it is still not known if Marquez gave or sold the guns to Farook.
Investigators have described the probe into last week's bloodshed — which saw 14 people killed and another 22 injured — as massive and painstaking, involving hundreds of interviews and stretching into at least two other countries. This continued Thursday, as the FBI and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office dispatched evidence recovery divers to Lake Seccombe in the city.
"There is no belief that there is anything dangerous as a result of this case in this place," David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said at a news conference. He said authorities were at the lake after learning the attackers may have been there at some point.
The FBI is still looking at the electronic items that belonged to Farook and Malik in an effort to determine if there are maps, photos or any indications of another target that the couple intended to attack.
But much of the recent attention has shifted to Marquez. He and Farook were friends who liked fixing up cars together in their driveways, but their ties ran deeper — and, authorities say, had more sinister intentions.
The two men discussed some type of attack around 2012 but dropped the idea after four men were arrested in Riverside, Calif., in a separate plan to kill Americans in Afghanistan, according to a senior official. Another FBI official said it didn't seem like the two men had picked a target, and it is unclear how far along they were in the planning stage.
Agents are trying to determine whether Farook and Marquez had taken actual steps to carry out the plan — and if they had any connection with the men in Riverside.
The timing of Marquez and Farook's possible plot is significant because Marquez legally purchased the two rifles used in the San Bernardino attack around the same time: one in 2011 and the other in early 2012.
Marquez's wife also has a connection to the Farook family, which is leading investigators down yet another road. Marquez was married to a woman who appears to be a relative of Tatiana Farook, the wife of Syed's brother Raheel, according to county records. Both Marquez and the bride, Russian-born Mariya Chernykh, list the same home address as Raheel Farook.
When asked if the shooters had any connections to other individuals who had been radicalized in this country, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there's "certainly nothing early in the investigation" suggesting there was "a tie to others."
Burr also added there was nothing to indicate that law enforcement should have caught this plot.
"Explain to me how you do that without any breadcrumbs that are obvious, or without anybody inside a mosque or inside a person's family that tips you off?"
Marquez, who checked himself into a mental health facility in Southern California just after the shooting but has since left, had worked at the front door as a security guard of a Walmart in Corona, Calif., in the months prior to the attack.
Although Marquez is cooperating with the FBI, there is still a possibility that he might be charged. In a briefing to lawmakers Thursday, FBI Director James B. Comey made clear he would not talk about Marquez.
The rifles purchased by Marquez were semiautomatic AR-15s manufactured by DPMS and Smith & Wesson. Farook also bought one handgun in 2011 and another in 2012, according to law enforcement officials.
Farook and his wife were discussing jihad at least two years before they opened fire, Comey said during an appearance on Capitol Hill earlier in the week.
The husband-and-wife duo "were radicalized for quite a long time before their attack," he added. This follows earlier statements by investigators that the couple had been adherents of a radical strain of Islam long before the massacre.
Farook, a 28-year-old county health inspector, and his Pakistani wife, Malik, 29, had begun communicating online, Comey said. It was during these communications that they began discussing jihadist thoughts, long before Malik traveled to the United States and they got married.
"And online . . . as early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and then married and lived together in the United States," Comey said during his testimony.
This radicalization appears to predate the rise of the Islamic State, the terrorist group that in 2014 formally declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
"I think that there is evidence of radicalization in the case of Farook that went back years. The same may exist for Malik, so this was something that I believe in both cases may have predated the rise of ISIS," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Thursday.
Schiff also said it's too early to conclude if law enforcement should have caught the plan earlier through surveillance.
"In terms of our foreign intelligence gathering, in terms of our electronic surveillance, I don't know yet that there was something that was in one of our holdings that we should have been aware of and we weren't," Schiff said. "That doesn't appear to be the case."
"We're still working our way through the electronic devices and communications they have," he said. "We still don't have a complete picture."
Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian, Julie Tate, Sari Horwitz and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.