As California county workers mingled Wednesday morning at a holiday banquet, a pair of maniacs intent on murder barged in with guns blazing.
The merciless masked killers, in matching military garb and body armor, executed 14 helpless victims and wounded 17 more at the Inland Regional Center in a lightning strike sparked by either a simple dispute — or terrorism, authorities said.
The mass murderers — a couple identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27,— were gunned down four hours later and 2 miles away when police pumped a fusillade of bullets into their fleeing SUV on a quiet residential San Bernardino street.
Cops said Farook and Malik were either married or dating. (married - see below)
One police officer was wounded in the wild gun battle that left the SUV shattered in the middle of the street. Its windshield was riddled with bullet holes, its tires shot out and its other windows blasted to pieces — a ghastly scene in a stunning day of violence.
A third person was captured as he fled from the scene of the afternoon gunfight, said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. But the chief could not say if that person was linked to the earlier killings.
The suspects had escaped the blood-spattered murder scene without swapping a single gunshot with the horde of law enforcement descending on the center, a social services facility for people with developmental disabilities.
Farook, an American citizen, worked for the San Bernardino County Department of Health for the past few years and had a young daughter, his shocked father told the Daily News.
“I haven’t heard anything,” the elder Syed Farook told The News before his son’s name became public. “He was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.”
NBC: Suspects Left Baby Daughter With Grandma
Farook had been at the party before the shooting and left "under some circumstances that were described as angry," San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters Wednesday night. Farook worked as a health inspector for the county health department for five years.
However, authorities would not rule out terrorism as a motive. Farook and Malik were wearing "assault-style clothing" and armed with assault-style rifles when they were killed, Burguan added. Authorities said an "explosive device" was found inside the building during a secondary sweep.
Between 10 and 30 minutes passed from when Farook left the party and the shooting began, according to Burguan.
"These people came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission," Burguan said. "They were armed with long guns, not with handguns."
Burguan said investigators knew little about Malik or "where she is from."
Seventeen other people were wounded — at least 10 of them were listed in critical condition early Thursday. A police officer was injured in the shootout.
Farhan Khan told NBC News that his brother-in-law Farook and wife left their baby girl with with Farook's mother on Wednesday, claiming they they had a doctor's appointment. The grandparents first became worried when they got a call from the media at around 2 p.m. asking if they knew Farook was a suspect in the shooting, according to Khan, who is married to Farook's sister.
"I just cannot express how sad I am for what happened today," Khan said at a press conference held by the Muslim advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations Wednesday night. "I am in shock that something like this could happen."
Wouldn't you know CAIR would be in the middle of it.
Khan said he had spoke to Farook a week ago, adding: "Why would he do something like this?" He added that Farook and Malik had been married for about two years.
The shooting at the Inland Regional Center occurred at around 11 a.m. Police said the two barged into a conference room during a Christmas party for San Bernardino County employees and opened fire before fleeing in a black sport-utility vehicle.
Farook and Malik were killed after police checking a lead in the nearby town of Redlands began chasing a vehicle believed to be related to the incident, Burguan said. The pursuit led back to San Bernardino, where the deadly shootout occurred.
A federal law enforcement source told The Times that the suspects hurled what were believed to be pipe bombs at police during the vehicle pursuit. Burguan said police recovered one device, but it turned out not to be an explosive.
Burguan said police also discovered a device at the scene of the shooting that might have been an explosive, and authorities were working late into the night to dispose of it. Several items of concern were also located inside the SUV involved in the pursuit, and investigators were trying to determine whether any of those items were explosive.
Burguan said Farook and Malik were dressed in "assault-style" clothing during as they fled from police, and were armed with assault rifles and handguns.
Two of the weapons used in the shooting were legally purchased, according to Meredith Davis, public information officer for the ATF in Los Angeles. She said agents would "continue to investigate leads concering the 2 additional firearms."
Co-workers described Farook as quiet and polite, and said he had no obvious grudges with anyone in the office. The 28-year-old had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a woman he met online.
The couple had a baby and appeared to be “living the American dream,” said Patrick Baccari, a fellow inspector who shared a cubicle with Farook.
Baccari and Christian Nwadike said Farook, who worked with them for about three years, rarely started a conversation. But the tall, thin, young man with a full beard was well-liked and spent much of his time out in the field.
Law enforcement officials said late Wednesday they could not rule out terrorism as a possible motive. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force was aiding in the investigation.
A law enforcement source told Fox News that the couple were each carrying an AR-15 rifle and and a pistol when they were shot and killed by police after a brief chase in their black SUV about 2 miles from the initial shooting site. The source said the vehicle also contained so-called "rollout bags" with multiple pipe bombs, as well as additional ammunition. The couple also had GoPro cameras strapped to their body armor and wore tactical clothing, including vests stuffed with ammunition magazines.
"That's a military tactic for a sustained fight," the source told Fox News of the rollout bags.
In addition to the explosives found at the SUV, authorities discovered and detonated three pipe bombs late Wednesday at the Inland Regional Center, the complex where the initial shooting took place about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Another source described a house in Redlands that was being searched in connection with the shooting as "an IED facility." The source said investigators discovered multiple pipe bombs in the house, as well as small explosives that were strapped to remote-controlled cars.
Patrick Baccari, a co-worker of Farook who suffered minor wounds from shrapnel slicing through the building's bathroom walls, told the Associated Press he been sitting at the same table as Farook at the banquet before his colleague suddenly disappeared, leaving his coat on his chair.
Baccari also said that Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia for about a month this past spring. When Farook came back, word spread that he had gotten married and the woman he described as a pharmacist joined him shortly afterward. The couple had a baby later this year. Baccari added that the reserved Farook showed no signs of unusual behavior, although he grew out his beard several months ago.
Once again, the only indication something was up, was his growing devotion to Islam.
"He's Muslim". I'll say!