On Wednesday morning, California health inspector and US citizen Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his Saudi wife of two years, Tashfeen Malik, 27, dropped off their six-month-old baby with Farook’s mother, saying they were going to a doctor’s appointment.
By noon, according to police, the couple had donned assault clothing, armed themselves with rifles and stormed a holiday party attended by San Bernardino County employees, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others.
Before sunset, after a massive manhunt and a violent shootout with police on a residential street, they were both dead, leaving a grieving community with few clues to puzzle out the motive for the carnage.
Those who knew Farook, among them his colleagues at the San Bernardino County Public Health Department, described him as a devout Muslim but not someone who often talked about religion.
‘He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious,’ said Griselda Reisinger, a former colleague.
Co-worker Patrick Baccari, who shared a cubicle with Farook, told the Los Angeles Times he and his young family appeared to be ‘living the American dream.’
Farook’s family was originally from South Asia, while Malik was believed to be from Pakistan and had lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Farook had an older brother, he added, who had served in the US military.
The gunman’s father, also named Syed Farook, seemed shocked when talking to the New York Daily News after the shooting.
“I haven’t heard anything,’ the elder Mr Farook said before his son’s name became public. ‘He was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.’
In an online profile reportedly created by Farook and his parents six years ago on a Muslim dating site, the health inspector described himself as 6-foot-tall and said he didn’t drink or smoke, according to ABC News.
Farook allegedly wrote that he was part of a ‘religios [sic] but modern family of 4’ and that he enjoyed ‘doing target practice with younger sister and friends’ in their backyard.
On another dating site profile that has attributed to Farook he shared his thoughts on living a balanced life as a Muslim-American: ‘I try to live as a good Muslim. Looking for a girl who has the same outlook, wear hijab, but live the life to the fullest.’
Public records suggest possible turbulence in Farook’s younger life.
In 2006, Rafia Farook, who records indicate is Farook’s mother, filed in a Riverside court for divorce from her husband, the elder Mr Farook.
She enumerated multiple instances of domestic abuse in the legal filing, and said her husband ‘threatens to kill himself on a daily basis.’ During one incident, she said in a court filing, her son came between them ‘to save me.’
In the hours after the shooting, more information emerged about Farook, who was born in the US, and Malik, whom is he thought to have met and married in Saudi Arabia two years ago.
The suspect’s co-worker, Patrick Baccari, said Farook was gone for about a month in the spring. A short time after his return, he was joined by his wife, a woman he described as a pharmacist.
Baccari said the reserved Farook showed no signs of unusual behavior, although he grew out his beard several months ago.
He said he had been sitting at the same table as Farook at the party on Wednesday morning, but his co-worker suddenly disappeared, leaving his coat behind. Baccari escaped most of the carnage as he was in the bathroom when the shooting started, and sustained only minor wounds from shranpnel which made it through the wall.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that Farook was ‘angry’ when he left the party, before returning with Malik and a stash of heavy weapons. Burguan said that there was obviously ‘some degree of planning involved’ in the attack.
Survivors of the shooting said the heavily armed duo entered the party venue and opened fire on the guests without uttering a single word.
Police said a third person was detained. It is not clear whether they are connected to the incident.
Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of CAIR, said the couple left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother in the city of Redlands early on Wednesday morning. They told her they were going to attend a doctor’s appointment for the wife. They never returned.
Dramatic aerial images showed the aftermath of the police chase, which came to an end around a mile and a half from the scene of the massacre.
The bodies of Farook and Malik can be seen near their shot-out SUV, surrounded by heavily-armed officers. One of them was killed in the passenger seat and later removed from the vehicle, while another of the pair appears to have bolted from the vehicle and been gunned down not far away.
Fragments of video from witnesses on the ground showed the killers and officers exchanging gunfire on the roads of San Bernardino as bystanders ducked for cover. The chase ended some time between 3pm and 4pm local time Wednesday – as long as five hours after the massacre began.
A source told CNN that the suspects threw pipe bombs out of the windows of the vehicle before the shootout with police.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the suspects threw a thick-gauge copper pipe out of the SUV, but no explosives were found inside. The fake pipe bomb was equipped with a piece of material made to look like a wick.
One officer was hit in the shoot-out, and was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The married couple also reportedly had left explosives behind in the conference center in San Bernardino prior their escape in the wake of the slaughter.
Read more: Daily Mail