Planning, Other Details Make California Shooting 'A Really Strange Case'

Dec 3, 2015
Originally published on December 3, 2015 4:30 pm
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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is a morning when we're all figuring out the news together. We do not have answers. We do have some evidence about the suspects in the San Bernardino shootings. With us to talk about all this and weave together the evidence we have is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. She's been talking with law enforcement officials. Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Who were the two shooters?

JOHNSON: So the man, his name's Syed Farook. He's - he was 28 years old. And he was an American citizen. Steve, we know he had worked for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. But he was not on FBI radar before yesterday's shooting. The Department of Public Health appears to have been having a holiday party yesterday at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Authorities say Farook attended the party for a while, got into a dispute or got angry about something and left. Later, he returned, Steve, with his wife. Both were wearing tactical gear, masks, and carrying assault rifles.

INSKEEP: Now, analysts have been surprised by that detail, the wife, that there would be a spouse along. This is a bit unusual. Who's she?

JOHNSON: OK. So she was born in Pakistan. She was 27 years old. And her name was Tashfeen Malik. They actually had a 6-month-old baby, Steve. And they left the baby with a grandparent yesterday, who apparently had no idea this plotting was in the works, according to the Southern California director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Local police, though, Steve, said the San Bernardino attack shows a lot of signs of coordination and planning. They had worn this gear. They had two assault rifles each, two handguns each. And authorities found two or three - we think three - explosive devices at the scene, at the regional center. And then, unusually, they had a getaway plan too. They got away for a while until police caught up with them later that afternoon.

INSKEEP: If you think about other mass shootings, you often find the killer right where the shooting is taking place.

JOHNSON: Yeah, either they die there or they kill themselves in that location. Or they surrender, yes.

INSKEEP: So people are looking through biographical details of these individuals, not knowing - and let's underline that - not knowing what may prove to be significant or not. We heard from the Council on American-Islamic relations that she had been in Saudi Arabia at some point. Does that mean anything or not? We don't know. It's a data point. We know of Pakistani descent on the husband's side. Do we know anything there? That's simply a data point. So what do investigators do to try to figure out what actually matters here?

JOHNSON: They're searching through a lot of data right now, Steve, the Internet communications, phones, any other paper records they have got their hands on with respect to each of these suspects. They're looking for connections to anyone else overseas. And importantly, Steve, the FBI, the leader of the FBI's Los Angeles field office says they're not ruling out terrorism at this point. But they're not saying it was terrorism either. It's a really strange case because, as you said, a woman was involved. The choice of the target, this holiday party of a county health department seems odd. And there was evidence of planning and getaway. So as of last night and including up to this morning, Steve, authorities are kind of confounded about what was in the heads of these suspects. And now that they're both dead, we have to look at records and contacts to figure out what was their motivation.

INSKEEP: And let's remember what we don't have at this point. Has there been any claim of responsibility or connection to any specific larger group that you know of, Carrie Johnson?

JOHNSON: Nothing credible at this point per law enforcement sources - nothing credible.

INSKEEP: What else do authorities not have that they wish they have or they don't have that they think is significant that it's not there?

JOHNSON: Certainly, they're going to be talking to people close to each of these suspects. We know from folks that who have communicated with family members, the family members say they're shocked that this happened. But they're going back into the recent past to see if there any hints, any clues.

INSKEEP: OK, Carrie, thank you very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.