San Bernardino’s police chief painted a picture of a veritable IED factory in the garage of the husband and wife who shot up a county employees’ Christmas party in San Bernardino.
The death toll remains at 14, while the number of wounded ticked up to 21.
Chief Jarrod Barguan said about 300 officers from local, county, state, and federal agencies responded to the attack from Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who fired between 65 and 75 rounds inside the auditorium of the Inland Regional Center.
Officers found in a bag at the scene three pipe bombs rolled into one remote control car device “that appeared not to have worked in this case,” the chief said. “We don’t know if they attempted to do that and it failed or what the story is.”
Barguan said the couple were wearing “black-style tactical gear,” no bulletproof vests but load-bearing gear. Contrary to reports that the shooters were wearing Go-Pro cameras, he said no evidence has been found that they were filming the attack.
The black Ford expedition used by the shooters, with Utah license plates, was rented a few days ago and was due to be returned this week. Law enforcement fired 380 rounds at suspects, basically shredding the car. Farook and Malik fired 76 rounds at officers before being killed at the end of a pursuit.
Barguan said 1,400 .223 caliber rounds and 200 9mm rounds were found “on their person or immediately in the vehicle.” A San Bernardino police officer who suffered a gunshot wound to the leg was due to be released from the hospital today. A county deputy suffered some cuts in the confrontation.
Farook reportedly owned a house in Corona, southwest of San Bernardino in Riverside County. The townhouse in Redlands was rented by both Farook and Malik. A search of that property revealed 12 pipe bombs in the garage as well as “hundreds” of tools to construct IEDs and “other material to produce some additional bombs.” Thousands more rounds of ammunition were also stored there.
Barguan said at this point they don’t know of plans for another attack, but “clearly they were equipped” to stage another. “We intercepted them before that happened,” he said.
The chief also noted there are differing accounts in the banquet about whether Farook got into a dispute with anyone and left angry, as has been reported. “Others said he was there and just kind of disappeared.”
“They sprayed the room with bullets,” Barguan said. “I don’t know if there was any one person they targeted.” The chief added that “nobody just gets upset at a party,” leaves and returns quickly with an “elaborate scheme” to take out his grievances.
Two handguns on the shooters were legally purchased by Farook. The long guns were legal purchases but by someone else; all guns “appeared to be registered.”
“There’s no criminal record that he had that we’re aware of,” he said.
The pair has a 6-month-old baby that was left with its grandmother. The chief said he doesn’t know where the child is now.
On reports that witnesses in the area saw Middle Eastern-looking men coming and going from the townhouse, Barguan said officials are still trying to verify that information.
David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, stressed that “this is not your average investigation.”
“We’d much rather be slower and correct with the information that comes out to you than faster and incorrect,” Bowdich said, emphasizing “we do not know the motive” and “cannot rule out anything at this point.”
“There was obviously a mission here,” he said. “We do not know why.” He said officials don’t know if the banquet was an intended target or if there was a “trigger that made him do this immediately.”
Bowdich said the FBI is studying “some international travel” on the part of Farook. In July 2014 he returned from overseas with Malik, who was on a Pakistani passport. They later married, and she was here on a K-1 visa for fiancés.
“I do not know all the countries he visited,” he said, pressed on reports that Farook had made a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, but said the travels did include Pakistan.
Asked if the suspects’ IED reflected designs shown in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine, Bowdich said, “We’re looking into it as we speak.”
CNN cited law enforcement sources as noting Farook was “in touch with people being investigated by the FBI for international terrorism.”
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors shut down non-essential county offices today and tomorrow, out of concern for threats and respect for the victims. Barguan said there’s no “credible” continuing threat to the area.