San Bernardino suspect, a dad, lived the American dream


Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified the relationship of Farhan Khan to Syed R. Farook, the suspected gunman. Khan is Farook’s brother-in-law.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The day started like any other — and ended in mass murder.

Syed R. Farook and Tashfeen Malik dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with the baby’s grandparents on Wednesday morning. They explained that they had a doctor’s appointment, says Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations here, who talked with Farook’s family.

But instead, Farook would briefly go to an office party at the Inland Regional Center where he worked as a environmental specialist. He left only to return with Malik, police say. With assault rifles and bombs, the pair gunned down 14 and injured at least 17 others.

On Thursday, the search for a motive continues.

Police were zeroing on the lives of the couple in an attempt to determine whether the attack in San Bernardino, about 50 miles east of here, was a case of workplace violence or Islamic-inspired terrorism, or both.

Ayloush organized a press conference Wednesday night in which he was joined by clergy of various faiths to urge that the attacks be viewed as a product of madness, not jihad. Among those speaking was Farhan Khan, Farook’s brother-in-law, who said his family was shocked at what happened.

“Why would he do something like this?” Khan asked, later saying the family is in a state of shock and disbelief about what happened.

Khan, married to Farook’s sister, said he talked with Farook a week ago. While he didn’t disclose the nature of the conversation, Ayloush said Khan told him it was routine — family business and alike. He said little else, explaining he didn’t want to compromise the police investigation.

On the surface, Farook and Malik lived the American dream, the kind of life that would be the envy of many. He had a solid job for a government agency, having worked for San Bernardino County for five years, police say. The family had a neat house in nearby Redlands. And, of course, there was their darling baby.

The couple led such normal lives that their little girl’s grandparents didn’t detect anything wrong. When they learned of the attack on TV, they called Farook to make sure he was okay, Ayloush says. It wasn’t until late afternoon, when they received a call from a reporter, that they learned that the couple might be suspected as perpetrators of the attack.

When they got the call, “their initial thought was they were among the wounded,” Ayloush says.

The man who owns the house in Center Street in Redlands, Doyle Miller, said Farook had lived there for five or six months. Redlands is just a few miles from San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, in what is known locally as the Inland Empire. Miller said Farook moved in with his wife and a “young child,” who he thinks was just a baby. He said a “grandmother” also lived there, though he wasn’t sure if it was Farook’s grandmother or the child’s.

Late in the day, police were searching the house. They were worried it might have bombs like the three that the couple planted at the center.

Miller said he only met Farook once and  had no problems with him. “The only thing we complained about is that he didn’t take care of the backyard,” he says.

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