Feds probe possible terrorism links in San Bernardino massacre – Los Angeles Times
Police said they believe Farook and Malik were the only people directly involved in the shooting, but said the investigation was continuing.
Federal investigators were attempting to interview three men who “were in phone contact” with Farook and his wife in the days leading up to the shooting rampage, a government official said.
“They were associates and in contact with the shooters,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
It was not clear whether the three men were involved in the shooting.
One of the men that federal officials wanted to interview was Roshan Abbassi, who was born in Pakistan, according to a government source speaking confidentially because of the delicacy of the matter.
Abbassi is an assistant imam at the Dal-Al-Aloom Al-Islamiyah of America mosque in San Bernardino, where Farook regularly worshipped. Abbassi said he barely knew Farook, sharing only occasional hellos and goodbyes with him after prayers. Abbassi said he didn’t know Farook’s wife at all.
Abbassi said he was confronted at gunpoint while at home Wednesday night by three officers, one of whom had a badge identifying him as a U.S. Secret Service agent, and was told they had phone records showing Abbassi had been in contact with Farook at least 36 times.
“But each of those could have been for only 10 seconds,” Abbassi told The Times in an interview Thursday afternoon.
In fact, when Farook’s name surfaced as the alleged shooter, Abbassi said he didn’t initially recognize it, because he only knew Farook by his middle name, Rizwan.
Abbassi posted a message about his run-in with the police Wednesday night on his Facebook page. Prior to that, the most recent item he shared was a video by Canadian poet Boona Mohammed condemning ISIS terrorism, but arguing that Western nations are equally guilty of attempting to achieve political and religious goals through violence, intimidation and fear.
“I’m just condemning all forms of terrorism, whether it comes from someone with a Muslim background, or someone with a Christian background who shoots up an abortion clinic,” Abbassi said. The police did not ask about the views expressed in his social media feed, Abbassi said.
After searching him to make sure he was unarmed, the officers holstered their weapons and questioned him for about an hour, Abbassi said.
He was not arrested or told he would be charged with a crime, Abbassi said.
Abbassi said he is an American citizen, but was not born in the U.S. His parents brought him to this country when he was under 2 years old. Asked were his parents came from, he said, “I prefer to keep that private.”
“We are all against terrorism,” Abbassi said. “We all want peace.”
On Thursday morning, FBI agents and SWAT officers also raided a condominium in Corona, where they led away one man in handcuffs, neighbors said.
“FBI agents with bullhorns showed up at 5 a.m.,” said Lorraine Otto, who lives next door to the home on Forum Way. “They kept saying, ‘This is the FBI. Open the door. If you don’t open the door, we’ll break it open.’”
A federal law enforcement source told The Times that while investigators have yet to establish a clear motive in the shooting, they are leaning toward a possible “combination of terrorism and workplace” conflict.
“We’re very involved in terms of trying to see if the motive was something inspired by a terrorist organization or directed by a terrorist organization, or whether he was self-radicalized,” said the source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Investigators also believe the couple had a familiarity with weapons and military-style tactics.
“We want to know how they acquired that,” the source said.
Farook and Malik were not known to federal investigators prior to the attack, the source said.
Shortly before the shooting, the couple left their young daughter with the child’s grandmother in Redlands, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, according to Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.
They headed to the regional center soon after.
The grandmother grew panicked when news of the shooting broke and began frantically calling Farook and Malik, but they did not answer, Ayloush said.
Fourteen people, all of them California residents, were killed in the gunfire.
The San Bernardino County Coroner’s office identified the dead late Thursday as: Shannon Johnson, 45, of Los Angeles, Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46, of Rialto, Aurora Godoy, 26, of San Jacinto, Issac Amanios, 60, of Fontana, Larry David Kaufman, 42, of Rialto, Harry Bowman, 46, of Upland, Yvette Velasco, 27, of Fontana, Sierra Clayborn, 27, of Moreno Valley, Robert Adams, 40, of Yucaipa, Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, of Colton, Tin Nguyen, 31, of Santa Ana, Juan Espinoza, 50, of Highland, Damian Meins, 58, of Riverside, and Michael Wetzel, 37, of Lake Arrowhead.
The San Bernardino police chief also revealed new details about the party where the shooting occurred, which began as a training session. According to Burguan, there were:
- 91 invited guests.
- 75 to 80 people that were present in the room when the shooting occurred, or that ultimately came to that party. Officials were still narrowing down that number because not everyone may have signed in.
- Of 21 injured, 18 were county employees.
- Of 14 dead, 12 were county employees.
As expected, the shooting is already a new chapter in the ever-divisive national gun debate. The president said Thursday that it was still “too easy” for people who want to kill large numbers of people to get access to high-powered weapons in the U.S.
“We’re going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder, not impossible, but harder for individuals to get access to weapons,” he said.
Farook and Malik used a pair of .223-caliber assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns in the shooting, Burguan said.
A federal law enforcement source told The Times that Farook purchased the pistols at Annie’s Get Your Gun, a firearms retailer in Corona that advertises itself as a “family-friendly gun store.”
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two rifles used in the attack were purchased by a separate individual at a second store.