Police are still trying to discover what prompted Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik to shoot up a holiday party this Wednesday in San Bernardino, California. The couple killed 14 and seriously wounded 21 before dying in a shootout with local police. While many suspect the killings were the result of a work dispute, authorities are searching for a potential link to terrorism.
According to coworkers, Farook visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year and returned with Malik, his wife or fiancée whom he had met online. Farook, who worked as an environmental inspector for the county’s health department, took his wife with him to a holiday office party on Wednesday. Fellow inspector Patrick Baccari, who was luckily using the restroom when the attack took place, described the scene:
“I’m getting pelted by shrapnel coming through the walls. We hit the ground.” About five minutes later he looked into the mirror and noticed he was bleeding. “If I hadn’t been in the bathroom, I’d probably be laying dead on the floor.”
The couple left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother that morning, telling her they had a doctor’s appointment. After hearing the news, family members were worried that Farook may have been injured. The family didn’t realize what happened until they were approached and questioned by police later that day. Hussam Ayloush, who works as executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained, “We don’t know the motives. Is it work, race-relatd, is it mental illness, is it extreme ideaology? At this point, it’s really unknown to us and at this point it’s too soon to speculate.”
Surviving coworkers were shocked when they realized who the gunmen had been. Farook was described as “well liked,” “reserved, “quiet,” and “polite.” He was a devout Muslim, but did not often discuss religion at work. “He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious,” said coworker Griselda Reisinger.
Patrick Baccari, who had worked in the same cubicle with Farook, said the couple had a new baby and seemed to be “living the American dream.”