Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, seemingly steeped in the routines of work and parenthood, apparently concealed their deadly plot.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — On Wednesday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, left their 6-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, telling her they were going to a doctor’s appointment, a relative said.
By nightfall, it was clear that had been a ruse.
Police said the couple had gone on a rampage at a social-services center in San Bernardino, killing at least 14 people, before leading officers on a chase that ended with the two dead in a bloody gunfight in a suburban neighborhood.
As investigators searched for a motive, a picture began to emerge of how the couple had hidden their plan even from close relatives. To some, they appeared steeped in the routines of work and parenthood. They had registered online for gifts for their newborn, including a car seat and diapers.
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But in their last moments, with the police in pursuit of the rented sport-utility vehicle Farook was driving, Malik aimed and fired a rifle out the back of the car. Before the couple were killed, the authorities said, they unloaded 76 rounds at police and injured two officers.
Farook and Malik met on a dating website, according to Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, who is married to one of Farook’s two sisters.
Malik, 27, was born in Pakistan and had lived with her family in Saudi Arabia, Khan said. Farook, 28, was born in Illinois and raised in Southern California; his parents are from Pakistan. Farook and Malik had been married for two years.
Khan said that Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia at least twice: first to meet Malik’s family and then to marry her.
A congressional official briefed on the inquiry said authorities believed Farook had also gone to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage, though it was not clear when. “They don’t think it was for nefarious activity,” the official said.
Police said the couple had entered the United States together in July 2014. Malik was traveling with a Pakistani passport and a K-1 visa. The visa, created specifically for fiancées, allows the holder to enter the country and marry a U.S. citizen. A couple must marry within 90 days; after that, the K-1 visa expires.
Farook applied for a permanent-resident green card for Malik within the legal 90-day limit, a federal official said. In July 2015, she was granted a conditional green card, for which, as a matter of procedure, the couple had to prove that their marriage was legitimate. Additionally, Malik had to pass criminal and national-security background checks.
After Farook graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, in 2010, officials said, he worked for five years as an environmental inspector for the San Bernardino County Public Health Department.
On Wednesday, he joined colleagues at an annual holiday party, the same party he had attended the year before. He did not appear out of place. Soon, however, he stormed out in anger, some witnesses said. The nature of the dispute was not clear, but when he returned with his wife, both were dressed in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles, officials said.
A friend of a man killed in the rampage said he and Farook had a heated conversation about Islam two weeks before the attack.
Kuuleme Stephens said she once happened to call Nicholas Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew who was passionate about pro-Israel causes, while he was at work and having a discussion with Farook.
Thalasinos, 52, identified Farook by name and told her that he “doesn’t agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion,” Stephens said.
Stephens said Farook replied that Americans don’t understand Islam. According to Stephens, both men worked as restaurant inspectors and regularly discussed politics and religion. She added that Thalasinos did not think their conversations would turn violent.
Thalasinos’ wife, Jennifer Thalasinos, said her husband had talked about Farook but never said anything negative.
In a text, Khan described the couple as “very private people” and said he had never heard them speak in anger. He wrote that Farook had been a “normal person.”
Syed Farook had been known to pray every day at his mosque, and he impressed brothers Nizaam and Rahemaan Ali by memorizing the Quran. He talked of getting a master’s degree and proudly announced it when he got married.
The last time Rahemaan Ali saw their friend was three weeks ago, when Farook abruptly stopped going to the mosque where they all worshipped, Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah in San Bernardino.
“He never, ever talked about killing people or discussed politics, or said that he had problems at work,” Rahemaan Ali said.
A few years before he married, Farook had profiles on at least two dating websites, where he advertised his family as well-adjusted. “Religious but modern,” he wrote.
He described himself as a health, safety and environmental inspector who came from a Sunni Muslim family of two girls and two boys.
“Enjoy working on vintage and modern cars, read religious books, enjoy eating out sometimes travel and just hang out in backyard,” he wrote, adding that he also enjoyed “doing target practice with younger sister and friends.”
Farook’s parents appear to have had a tumultuous and often violent marriage, according to court records. His mother, Rafia Farook, filed for dissolution of the marriage in 2006. Additionally, she accused her husband, also named Syed Farook, of domestic violence. Those complaints were later dismissed.
In 2008, Rafia Farook again accused her husband of domestic violence and legally separated from him.
But the trouble apparently continued until as recently as February, when she made another domestic-violence complaint. Records indicate the complaint is active.