The radicalized San Bernardino gunman clashed with a Jewish co-worker over religion just two weeks before he and his Pakistani wife stormed an office holiday party where they massacred 14 people.
Syed Farook, 28, got into a heated argument with colleague Nicholas Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew who was identified today as one of the victims of Wednesday’s rampage.
It came as FBI agents discovered a huge arsenal of weapons and pipe bombs at a California home linked to Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik.
Agents discovered nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs and hundreds of tools for making improvised explosive devices at the property, law enforcement officials revealed today.
It also emerged that the US-born Farook appeared to have been radicalized and was in touch by phone and via social media with more than one international terrorism subject, which may have in part motivated the attacks, CNN reported, citing investigators.
And it is unclear if the earlier argument between Farook and Thalasinos played any role in the massacre – but authorities said Farook had left the party ‘angry’.
Kuuleme Stephens said she had happened to call Thalasinos while he was at work and having a discussion with Farook.
Thalasinos identified Farook by name and told her the 28-year-old believed Islam was a peaceful religion. She added that Farook said that Americans do not understand Islam.
Stephens said both men worked as county restaurant inspectors and regularly discussed politics and religion.
Thalasinos was passionate about pro-Israel causes and was known to rant about Islam on Facebook.
The New York Post reported that Thalasinos’ Facebook page was filled with negative comments about Muslims and references to his conservative beliefs.
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.
He was back online early on Wednesday morning sharing articles about Russian President Vladimir Putin and posting a negative comment about President Obama.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a press conference that Farook and Malik, 27, 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.
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.
During a standoff with police in Redlands five hours after the San Bernardino massacre, the husband and wife unleashed a barrage of bullets on the responding cops, who returned fire, peppering the couple’s rental Ford Expedition SUV with 380 rounds. Both Farook and Malik were pronounced dead at the scene.
When law enforcement officials searched the bullet-riddled vehicle with Utah license plates, they found more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition on or around the deceased shooters.
During an early-morning search of a residence in the city of Redlands associated with Farook or his family, Chief Burguan said agents came away with a massive arsenal of ammunition, including 2,000 9mm rounds, another 2,500 .223 rounds and several hundred long-rifle bullets, along with 12 pipe bombs and tools that could be used to construct IEDs.
Burguan noted that the couple were well-equipped to carry out another attack. He added that Farook had no criminal record that police were aware of.
The New York Times reported that the FBI had uncovered evidence that Farook was in communication with multiple Islamic extremists both in the US and abroad over the course of several years, among them at least one individual who was a terrorism suspect.
According to Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, he and Malik met on a dating website two years ago. The California health inspector then traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2013 to meet Malik’s family, and again in July 2014 to marry her.
FBI Assistant Director David Bowdich said Farook brought his newlywed wife over to the US on a 90-day K-1 fiancee visa.
The couple applied on September 30, 2014, for a permanent resident green card for Malik, which requires passing criminal and national security background checks. She was granted a conditional green card in July 2015.
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.
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 21 others.
Before sunset, after a massive manhunt and a violent shootout with police on a residential street in the city of Redlands, Farook and Malik lay dead.
By early Thursday afternoon, the first of the victims of the San Bernardino massacre have been identified as three health department workers.
Damian Meins, 58; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52; and Michael Wetzel, 37, were among the 14 shot dead inside at the Inland Regional Center on Wednesday.
Thalasinos’s wife, Jennifer, told the New York Times her husband was a co-worker of Farook’s at the health department and the two appeared friendly.
Meins had only been working at the San Bernardino County of Environmental Health Department for three months when he was shot dead. He leaves behind a wife, high-school sweetheart Trenna Meins, and two children, according to the Press Enterprise.
Wetzel also worked as an environmental health specialist with San Bernardino County. The 37-year-old leaves behind a wife, Renee, and six children.
Friends and family have identified two more victims: county health department employ Sierra Clayborn and Daniel Kaufman, 42, who ran a coffee shop at the Inland Regional Center.
On Thursday afternoon, a hospital official told reporters outside the Loma Linda Medical Center that two wounded people remain in a critical condition. Two others are in a fair condition and one is due to be released today.
Those who knew Malik 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.
Members of two local mosques where Farook worshipped sounded a similar note Thursday, telling NBC News they knew him as a mild-mannered, peaceful and highly devout man.
They also insisted that if he had indeed been radicalized, it did not happen at their mosques.
‘We never saw him raise his voice. We never saw him curse at anyone, disrespect anyone. He was always a very nice guy, always very simple, very straightforward,’ Nazeem Ali, of Dar-al-Uloom, Al-Islamiyah mosque in San Bernardino told the station.
Ali confirmed that in 2013, Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia on the hajj – a religious pilgrimage that every adult Muslim must go on at least once – and to meet his fiancee, Tashfeen Malik, whom he intended to marry in the holiest shrine of Islam, the Black Stone in Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
When he returned to the States, he approached Mustafa Kuko, the director of the Islamic Center of Riverside where Farook had been a member for several years, asking him to host a wedding celebration there.
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.’
Read more: Daily Mail