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US Investigators Focus on Friend of California Shooter

  • Ken Bredemeier

The garage door of Enrique Marquez's home is seen broken after a recent FBI raid, Dec. 9, 2015, in Riverside, California.

The garage door of Enrique Marquez's home is seen broken after a recent FBI raid, Dec. 9, 2015, in Riverside, California.

U.S. investigators probing last week's deadly massacre in California are now intensely focusing on the activities of Enrique Marquez, who they say supplied the assault-style weapons to the husband-and-wife attackers who killed 14 people and wounded another 21.

Authorities say that the 24-year-old Marquez spent hours tinkering on old cars with Syed Rizwan Farook, a friendship that had extended for several years. Investigators say Marquez converted to Islam, Farook's religion, married a member of Farook's extended family and claims to have discussed a terrorist plot with Farook in 2012 but abandoned it when authorities arrested suspects in an unrelated terrorist incident.

Investigators say that Marquez, who until recently worked as a security guard at a Walmart store, legally bought two semi-automatic rifles and gave them to the 27-year-old Farook, who carried out the attack on a local government center in San Bernardino with his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29. Farook and Malik were killed hours later in a barrage of gunfire with police.

Marquez, who has not been charged in the case, checked himself into a mental health facility after the December 2 attack. Agents have searched his house, seized potential evidence and interviewed him repeatedly. Authorities say he has been cooperating with the investigation.

This July 27, 2014, photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik (L) and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

This July 27, 2014, photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik (L) and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Slipping through

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is investigating whether it missed any signs of the radicalization of Malik's Islamic beliefs when officials in Pakistan scrutinized her request for what is known as a fiance visa, to enter the U.S. with the intent to marry Farook a short time later.

James Comey, the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, told a congressional panel Wednesday that investigators believe the couple was radicalized before meeting online where they started discussing jihad and martyrdom about two years ago.

Authorities say that no red flags turned up in their background checks on Malik and that questioning of her focused on the legitimacy of her relationship with Farook and whether they planned to marry, as they did last year after arriving in the U.S.

The State Department has defended its background check on Malik. But State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN Thursday, "Every now and then, someone's going to get through. We don't like that, but that's the reality."

After a closed-door briefing on the investigation Thursday, Congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona denounced the State Department review of Malik.

"They say the system has all these fail-safes," Salmon said. "Apparently there aren't enough fail-safes. This woman was obviously radicalized years ago and she got through the system."

At a briefing for reporters Wednesday, Kirby said, "It’s too soon to know what, if anything, might have been missed in the screening process. If in the context or in the process of the review, we find things that we can do, we’re not going to wait for the review to be complete before we make the changes. But clearly we’re going to keep an open mind about the program going forward and make whatever changes we need to make."

A passerby takes a picture of the townhouse rented by the San Bernardino attackers Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, Dec. 8, 2015, in Redlands, California.

A passerby takes a picture of the townhouse rented by the San Bernardino attackers Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, Dec. 8, 2015, in Redlands, California.

‘Homegrown’

In his testimony, Comey said Farook and Malik were inspired by foreign terrorist groups. He described the couple as "homegrown violent extremists."

"We’re working very hard to understand exactly their association and the source of their inspiration," Comey said. "We’re also working very hard to understand whether there was anybody else involved with assisting them, with supporting them, with equipping them, and we’re working very, very hard to understand, did they have other plans, either for that day or earlier, and that work continues."

Comey said he was limited in what he could tell the committee because the investigation was continuing.

The FBI is looking into the attack as an act of terrorism, but there are no signs that the U.S.-born Farook and Malik were part of a terror cell or group.

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