SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The FBI is officially investigating the mass shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 21 others injured as an “act of terrorism.”
David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, made the declaration at a news conference Friday in California. He would not give further details about why the bureau made the determination, only saying that they uncovered evidence pointing to “extensive planning.”
“There’s a number of pieces of evidence that has pushed us off the cliff,” Bowdich said.
Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, stormed a San Bernardino social service center and opened fire at a holiday party for his co-workers Wednesday.
Bowdich said the couple attempted to destroy evidence, including crushing two cellphones and discarding them in a nearby trash can. He said authorities continue to investigate the case to understand the motivations of the shooters and whether they were planning more attacks, CBS2’s Danielle Nottingham reported.
“We are going through a very large volume of electronic evidence,” FBI Director James Comey said. “This is electronic evidence that these killers tried to destroy and tried to conceal from us that we now have and are exploiting to try and understand them.”
Before the announcement, a federal law enforcement source told CBS News that the 27-year-old Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an online posting, CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton reported.
Malik made her posts on Facebook with an alias and deleted the messages before carrying out the deadly attack with her husband, an official who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. Malik’s alias on Facebook and specifics about her postings were not publicly disclosed by the law enforcement official.
A Facebook official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed under corporate policy to be quoted by name, told AP that the company discovered the account Thursday. It removed the profile from public view and reported its contents to law enforcement.
Bowdich said the FBI is aware of the post and confirmed it was made around the same time as the attack and contained a pledge of allegiance.
Another U.S. official said there was no sign that anyone affiliated with the Islamic State group communicated back to her and no signs of any operational instructions being conveyed to her. This official also spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss case details by name.
CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser, called the development a game-changer.
“We are in a much more diverse terrorist landscape,” he said. “It’s one that involves potential U.S. citizens as well as women. And that makes the job of the FBI all the more difficult.”
Investigators said Farook, 28, traveled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan last year and returned with Malik, a Pakistani woman who came to the U.S. on a fiancée visa before Farook married her in California. They had a 6-month-old daughter, who is now being raised by relatives.
The disclosure about the online activities of Malik provided the first significant details suggesting a motive for her participation with her husband in the shootings.
While the couple was not on any terror watch lists, law enforcement sources told CBS News Farook had been in contact with people both in the U.S. and overseas with possible ties to terrorism.
Investigators are focusing on the extent of those contacts and whether Farook may have been influenced or possibly radicalized, CBS News reported.
Investigators are also looking into the possibility Farook’s wife radicalized him, CBS News’ Chris Martinez reported.
At the same time, law enforcement officials from local police to Attorney General Loretta Lynch cautioned it could have been work-related rage. Or a twisted hybrid of religion and personal vendetta.
Farook had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attacks.
“I can never imagine my brother or my sister-in-law doing something like this, especially because they were happily married. They have a beautiful 6-month-old daughter,” the suspect’s sister, Saira Khan, said. “I’ve asked myself, if I had called him that morning or the night before, asked him how he was doing or what he was up to, if I had any inclination, maybe I could have stopped it.”
Farhan Khan, Farook’s brother-in-law, said he, too, was blindsided, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
“Makes us very upset and angry that how he can leave a 6-month-old daughter,” he said.
Khan, who addressed the victims and the world the night of the shooting, said he felt an obligation to do so.
“I wanted to go there and talk to the victims, people who were hurt,” he said, breaking down in tears. “So I love this country, I love the people, and I felt responsible to go and tell this to the people.”
Added Farook’s sister: “I don’t even know if I would forgive him.”
Authorities said the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds on the gathering before fleeing. They died four hours later and two miles away during a furious gun battle with police.
The pair had more than 1,600 bullets when they were killed. Police said they also had more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition, 12 pipe bombs and tools to make more explosives at home.
CBS News has learned those devices were made from Christmas tree lights and radio-controlled toys.
“Clearly, they were equipped, and they could have done another attack,” said San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan. “We intercepted them before that happened.”
Farook legally bought two handguns used in the massacre, and their two assault rifles were legally bought by someone else federal authorities wanted to question. That person’s identity was not released.
Media Allowed In Killers’ Home
Meanwhile, a California landlord invited the media into the town house rented by the San Bernardino attackers.
Reporters on Friday found a crib, toys, a child’s book of the Quran, family pictures and shredded documents inside the couple’s Redlands, California, home.
There was a computer monitor, but no computer.
Many who were watching it unfold live on television were shocked that the media was given access to the home, just two days after the attack.
Law enforcement analyst and former NYPD Detective Harry Houck told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he was “having chills down my spine what I’m seeing here.”
“This apartment clearly is full of evidence,” he said. “You have passports, driver’s licenses — now you have thousands of fingerprints all over inside this crime scene.”
Bowdich said the FBI executed a search warrant on the apartment and turned it back over Thursday night.
“Once the residents have the apartment and we’re not in it anymore, we don’t control it,” he said. “Once we turn that location back over to the occupants of that residence or once we board it up, anyone who goes in at that point, that’s got nothing to do with us.”
Judy Miller, the landlord, said she rented the apartment to Farook six months ago.
“They just seemed like they were very happy,” she said. ” … He seemed so nice, and he seemed sincere, and he had good credit.”
Remembering The Victims
The dead ranged in age from 26 to 60. Nearly all were county employees and some had ties to the Tri-State area.
The victims have been identified as Shannon Johnson, 45, Los Angeles; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, Colton; Isaac Amanios, 60, Fontana; Bennetta Betbadal, 46, Rialto; Aurora Godoy, 26, San Jacinto; Larry Kaufman, 42, Rialto; Harry Bowman, 46, Upland; Yvette Velasco, 27, Fontana; Sierra Clayborn, 27, Moreno Valley; Robert Adams, 40, Yucaipa; Tin Nguyen, 31, Santa Ana; Juan Espinoza, 50, Highland; Damian Meins, 58, Riverside; and Michael Wetzel, 37, Lake Arrowhead.
Thalasinos used to live in New Jersey, but moved to California.
He identified as a Messianic Jew and passionately defended Israel, actively debating about religion in online forums and in person, his friends said.
Thalasinos worked with Farook as a restaurant inspector and only two weeks ago, was having a heated on-the-job discussion about the nature of Islam with the suspect.
“As far as I know, he got along with everybody,” his wife, Jennifer Thalasinos said. “That’s what’s so shocking is that he would’ve turned around and done this. I feel like whatever went on in his life, obviously he became radicalized.”
Betbadal was born in Iran in 1969 and came to the United States at age 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution, according to a family statement on a fundraising account set up in her name.
She first settled in New York City but eventually moved to Rialto, California. She and her husband, a police officer, were married in 1997 and have three children, ages 10, 12 and 15.
She worked as a health inspector with San Bernardino County.
On Thursday, New York Giants safety Nat Berhe, who is from San Bernardino, tweeted: “Just got word that one of my cousins was among the 14 killed yesterday, I’m so sick right now.”
Berhe tweeted that his cousin is Isaac Amanios and that he was “a great human being.” He thanked everyone for their kind words and the first responders, who he called “true heroes.”
The victims were remembered Thursday night as several thousand mourners gathered at a local ballpark for a candlelight and prayer vigil with leaders of several religions paying them tribute.
Members of the Muslim community stood outside the stadium when the vigil ended, shaking hands and offering hugs in a show of solidarity.
Among the 21 injured were two police officers hurt during the manhunt, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday.
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