The family of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook have claimed that he had been teased by colleagues about his long Islamic beard hours after it emerged that he had also clashed with a Jewish co-worker over religion weeks before he and his wife killed 14 at a holiday party.
While the exact motive for the massacre remains unclear, lawyers for the Farook family said the gunman had been subject to a series of disparaging comments about his traditional Muslim appearance.
But they insisted that the health inspector had ‘brushed off’ the remarks and they remained at a loss to explain why he mercilessly gunned down 14 people and wounded 21, the majority his former co-workers, on Wednesday.
Their comments came hours after it emerged that Farook had recently got into a heated argument with colleague Nicholas Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew, who was named as one of his victims.
Thalasinos, a county restaurant inspector, was said to regularly discuss politics and religion with Farook.
Colleague Kuuleme Stephen said that when she had called Thalasinos at work he told her he was having a heated discussion with Farook about Islam who had told him Islam was a peaceful religion and that Americans do not understand Islam.
Thalasinos was known to be passionate about pro-Israel causes and regularly ranted about Islam on Facebook.
On September 11th, 2013, alongside a photo of a shirtless victim plummeting to his death from the burning World Trade Center, Mr Thalasinos posted: ‘On behalf of this guy… You can stick your Million Muslim March up your asses’.
In one of his final status updates on Tuesday, Thalasinos responded to an anti-Semitic tirade allegedly penned by an apparent Muslim living in Ukraine, who railed against Jews and Israel.
‘Anyway my new hobby appears to be BLOCKING PAGAN ANTISEMITIC TROGLODYTES so I’m just passing this along to warn others,’ was Thalasinos’ reply.
Again, it is unclear if the dispute played a part in the massacre.
David Chesley, an attorney acting for Farook’s family,is questioning accounts of the shootings and whether information released by the police and FBI was accurate.
To illustrate his point, he made a bizarre reference to the Sandy Hook massacre, suggesting it didn’t take place as described in the official narrative.
‘There have been suggestions that it may be something that was related to their work, that somehow he was a disgruntled employee,’ he said.
‘But it doesn’t seem plausible to us that this petite woman would be involved in this sort of hyper-caricatured, Bonnie and Clyde crazy scenario.
‘There was a lot of questions drawn with Sandy Hook and whether or not that was a real incident or not.
‘But I mean obviously these things were found there, how they got there we don’t know.’
Asked if he doubted if the Dec 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, which claimed 26 lives, took place, Mr Chesley added: ‘There has been a lot speculation about it is all I would say.
‘There’s a lot of people that said it happened but hasn’t happened in the way that it was purported to have taken place.
‘There’s no question that incidents have taken place and evidence was found but we just question some of that.’
The family’s lawyers also revealed for the first time that Farook’s mother Rafia, 62, was held for questioning in the wake of the mass shooting after cops pulled her over in one of her other son’s SUVs.
She was released without charge the next day but the vehicle is still in the hands of law enforcement officials, they said.
The Farook family, including his father Syed, 66, older brother Syed Raheel, and sisters Eba, 24, Saira, 32, and her husband Farhan Khan, 41, spent several hours talking to FBI agents on Thursday.
Speaking outside Mr Khan’s house late last night, attorney Chesley insisted that Farook’s relatives had no idea he was plotting a massacre or stockpiling weapons with his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27.
FBI agents discovered a huge arsenal – including nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs and hundreds of tools for making IEDs at the couple’s home.
It also emerged that Farook was in touch by phone and through social media with more than one international terrorism subject. Meanwhile, Farook’s older brother, Syed Raheel Farook, was revealed a decorated Navy veteran honored for his role in the war on terror
But Mr Chesley said there was ‘no smoking gun’ to suggest a motive but added: ‘Both the sisters and the brothers as they went through the information today, there was one silly thing that came up – that some of his co-workers at some point made remarks about his beard.
‘But it so slight and no-one has ever stated that he has ever acted in a hostile or a violent way towards anyone. They were a very polite, conservative married couple.’
His colleague and fellow attorney, Mohammad Abuershaid, added: ‘There is no indication that he was involved with anybody physically.
‘All we know is that there was a couple of situations with people who might have teased him about his facial hair.
‘There’s no indication he had a short temper. It was people just teasing him about his facial hair and how he looked. He had a long beard and a very short trimmed haircut.
‘It was just basic comments but he used to brush them off pretty easily. The family is in shock just as we are. They had no idea something like this would happen.’
On Wednesday morning, Farook and Malik dropped off their six-month-old baby with Farook’s mother, according to KTLA, saying they were going to a doctor’s appointment.
Both lawyers refused to comment on the dead couple’s child other to say she was safe and being cared for. They said the family last saw Farook on Sunday for a family meal.
The coupled lived in a rented apartment in Redlands, a 15-minute drive from San Bernardino, with their mother Rafia.
Mr Chesley said that it was ‘important that Muslims should not be intimidated or harassed’ because of the shooting because there was no evidence as yet to say Farook’s religion fueled the killings.
Referencing the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs by white 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, Mr Chesley said: ‘Those are the acts of mad people, they don’t represent a religion’. He added: ‘It’s important for everyone to know that the family was as surprised as anyone.
‘When they got the news they were scared that their brother was basically in danger because they were so shocked and clueless about what was taking place. ‘They could not imagine their own brother as having done anything like this.’
Farook and Malik fired as many as 75 rounds inside a conference center at the Inland Regional Center during a holiday party for county health employees on Wednesday morning, killing 14 and injuring a further 21.
The couple came dressed in black tactical-style vests and armed with a .223-caliber DPMS Model A15 rifle, a Smith and Wesson M&P15 rifle, a handgun made by Llama and a Smith and Wesson handgun.
They also each wore a GoPro camera as they went on their rampage, police said.
Federal officials said all four weapons were purchased legally in the United States four years ago – the handguns by Farook himself and the assault rifles by a third party.
A federal law enforcement source told the LA Times Farook and Malik bought the guns at Annie’s Get Your Gun, a firearms store in the city of Corona that bills itself as a ‘family-friendly gun store.’ A person who identified themselves as the owner denied that the store sold the weapons to the shooters.
Read more: Daily Mail