WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday that the San Bernardino massacre that left 14 people dead could be an act of terrorism.
“It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we don’t know. It’s also possible this was workplace related,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office.
Authorities say 28-year-old Syed Farook and his 27-year-old wife Tashfeen Malik gunned down his co-workers at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center Wednesday morning. Farook worked for San Bernardino County’s Health Department.
The couple was killed in a shootout with police following the incident.
Obama told reporters that the FBI has taken over the investigation.
“At this stage we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred,” the president said. “We do know the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry at their homes, but we don’t know why they did it. We don’t know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations.”
Obama said that it’s just too easy right now to get guns that lead to these horrific shootings.
“We’re going to have to search ourselves as a society to take basic steps that would make it harder, not impossible, but harder for individuals to get access to weapons,” he said.
Obama added that “we all have a part to play” to curb gun violence.
“We see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.
Robert Baer, the Intelligence and Security Analyst for CNN and a former CIA Operative, said during an appearance on “At This Hour” with John Berman and Kate Bolduan that the attack didn’t appear to be the type of workplace shooting that have occurred in the past.
“What disturbs me is this was a military assault. The fake pipe bomb that was thrown out of the car to break contact with the police. The remote-controlled detonated device left inside the building. Two shooters. A lot of ammunition. These people had some training, some sort of commitment to this. And also it’s clear to me that when they decide to take on the police and fire back on them that they were ready to die. They looked like they were martyrs to me,” he said. “And I’ll go out on a limb, I’m convinced right now until proven otherwise that this was a international terrorism. … Right now this is too well planned, too well coordinated. As I said, classic military assault. Speed, surprise, extreme violence at the objective. It just fits those characteristics and not a workplace shooting.”
Baer went on to add he thought the attack may have been inspired by ISIS.
“The tactics that they adopted in taking down this place were exactly ISIS tactics. Now I’m not saying ISIS was behind this, inspired it, they haven’t claimed it or anything like that, but the tactics suggest they were taught in the Middle East or they simply were on websites and got some sort training,” he said. “These are not people that just got mad at their employer and shot the place up. I just don’t see that right now.”
Farook, a 28-year-old county restaurant inspector, and his wife slaughtered 14 people and seriously wounded more than a dozen others in a precision attack Wednesday at a social service center for the disabled before they were gunned down in an SUV a few miles away in a furious shootout with police.
Federal investigators Thursday were trying to learn why the couple left behind their baby daughter and went on the rampage — the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since the Newtown, Connecticut, school tragedy three years ago that left 26 children and adults dead.
Farook was born in the U.S. to a Pakistani family, was raised in Southern California and had been a San Bernardino County employee for five years, according to authorities and acquaintances. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said he had no information on Malik’s background. Relatives said Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet his wife.
Police and federal agents for a second day searched a home in neighboring Redlands, about 7 miles from the massacre at the Inland Regional Center. Investigators didn’t immediately say if the couple had lived there. Public records show it may be the home of a Farook family member.
Residents told KABC-TV Redlands is a sleepy town and expressed shock that the killers might be their neighbors.
The attackers invaded the center about 60 miles east of Los Angeles around 11 a.m., opening fire in a conference area where county health officials were having an employee banquet. Farook attended the banquet, then left, then returned with murderous intent.
“They came prepared to do what they did, as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said.
Co-worker Patrick Baccari said he was sitting at the same table as Farook, who suddenly disappeared. Baccari said that when the shooting started, he took refuge in a bathroom and suffered minor wounds from shrapnel slicing through the wall.
The shooting lasted about five minutes, he said, and when he looked in the mirror he realized he was bleeding.
“If I hadn’t been in the bathroom, I’d probably be laying dead on the floor,” he said.
Baccari described Farook as reserved and said he showed no signs of unusual behavior. Earlier this year, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, was gone for about a month and returned with a wife, later growing a beard, Baccari said.
The couple dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with relatives Wednesday morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said after talking with family.
“We don’t know the motives. Is it work, rage-related? Is it mental illness? Is it extreme ideology? At this point, it’s really unknown to us, and at this point it’s too soon to speculate,” Ayloush said.
Co-workers told the Los Angeles Times that Farook was a devout Muslim but didn’t talk about religion at work.
Farhan Khan, who is married to Farook’s sister, told reporters that he last spoke to his brother-in-law about a week ago. Khan condemned the violence and said he had “absolutely no idea” why Farook would do such a thing.
Seventeen people were wounded, according to authorities. Ten were hospitalized in critical condition, and three in serious condition, Fire Chief Tom Hannemann said.
About four hours after the morning carnage, police hunting for the killers riddled a black SUV with gunfire in a shootout 2 miles from the social services center in this Southern California city of 214,000 people.
Farook and Malik were found with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, and were wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, authorities said.
Three explosive devices — all connected to one another — were found at the social services center, police said.
Federal authorities said the two assault rifles and two handguns used in the violence had been bought legally, but they did not say how and when they got into the attackers’ hands.
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