The husband-and-wife attackers who shot to death 14 people at a California holiday party fired as many as 75 shots in the horrific rampage and left behind a remote-controlled toy car rigged with three pipe bombs that failed to detonate, police said Thursday.
San Bernardino, California police chief Jarrod Burguan said the couple, an American-born local government health inspector and his Pakistani wife, escaped in a rented sport utility vehicle Wednesday, before police killed them in a violent gun battle three kilometers away on a street in the nearby town of Redlands.
Burguan said the man, 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, fired 76 rifle shots at police, with the police returning 380 rounds at them. When the carnage ended, Burguan said police found 1,600 rounds of ammunition on their bodies or in their car.
In addition, Burguan said investigators discovered 12 pipe bombs in the couple’s home, bomb-making materials and another 4,500 or more rounds of ammunition.
Federal Bureau of Investigation official David Bowdich said Farook had traveled overseas and returned to the United States with Malik in July 2014, with the woman entering the U.S. on a Pakistani passport. Bowdich said that the couple later married and that she was in the United States on a visa.
The investigators said Thursday that it was too soon to say what the couple’s motive was for launching the massacre.
President Barack Obama said terrorism or a workplace dispute could have motivated the couple to carry out the attack, which also left 21 others injured.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said, “It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we don’t know. It’s also possible that this was workplace related.”
Obama added, “I can assure the American people we’re going to get to the bottom of this,” with investigators looking for clues as to the motives. The FBI’s Bowdich said investigators are scouring the couple’s digital devices for evidence.
Obama ordered American flags on government buildings, embassies and military installations flown at half-staff until Monday to honor the shooting victims.
He said the assault at a local government social services center for developmentally disabled people should spur lawmakers in Washington “to take basic steps to make it harder, not impossible, to get weapons.”
Obama said that “right now it’s just too easy” for people to buy guns in the United States, where gun ownership is an embedded right in the Constitution, and that American society is going to have to search itself to figure out a way to curb gun violence. Burguan said that all four guns the couple were carrying were legally purchased and registered.
Obama offered his comments on the shooting after receiving briefings from the country’s top law enforcement officials, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director, James Comey.
Burguan said the couple were dressed in “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached and heavily armed with assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns when they stormed into the Inland Regional Center, located 90 kilometers from the major U.S. city of Los Angeles.
The police chief said Farook had earlier attended the party and left, possibly after a dispute, and then returned to the facility that provides services for people with such disabilities as autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Authorities said the couple had not been on any U.S. terrorist watch list.
‘On a mission’
“They came prepared to do what they did,” Burguan said, “as if they were on a mission. Based on how they were equipped, there had to be some degree of planning that went into this. I don’t think they just ran home and put on these tactical clothes, grabbed guns and came back on a spur of the moment thing.”
The couple had dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with relatives before the attack, saying they had a doctor’s appointment.
It was deadliest mass shooting in the United States since a gunman opened fire at an elementary school three years ago that left 26 children and adults dead. But it was the 353rd mass shooting this year in the U.S. in which four or more people have been shot in a single incident.
Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, said he was bewildered by news of the shooting.
“Why would he do that?” Khan asked. “Why would he do something like this? I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself.”
Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations, appealed to Americans to not jump to conclusions about the motives behind the rampage.
“Is it work? Is it rage-related? Is it mental illness? Is it extreme ideology?” Ayloush said. “We just don’t know.
“We unequivocally condemn the horrific act that happened today,” Ayloush told reporters. “We stand in solidarity in repudiating any possible ideology or mindset that could have led to such (a) horrific act.”
A third person was arrested while trying to flee the shootout, but police chief Burguan said it is unclear what he was doing at the scene and was not believed to be a shooter.
This shooting comes less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood women’s health clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In October, a gunman killed nine people at a college in Oregon and in June a white gunman killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.