San Bernardino Shooting Updates

[Content Note: Guns; terrorism; violence; death.]

Yesterday, two people—a man and a woman—armed with assault-style rifles and handguns and wearing assault gear, opened fire in the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and injuring 17 others, 10 critically, in what was the deadliest shooting in the US since Sandy Hook in 2012. Following a shootout with police, both of the shooters are dead, and a third conspirator is in police custody. (See updates at end of post for additional/new information.)

The names of the victims have not yet been released, as families are presumably still being notified. My condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the people who were killed. I desperately hope that the 17 people who are injured will survive, and that they have access to the resources they need to heal. I also hope that the people who escaped harm but experienced and witnessed such a traumatic event will have what they need to process what they went through.

The male and female shooters who were killed have been named by law enforcement sources as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27. The identity of the third person involved has not been released. Farook was employed by the San Bernardino County Department of Health as a health technician inspecting restaurants and hotels.

The police have not commented on a motive, although, during one of several press conferences held yesterday, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that "there had been some sort of dispute at a holiday party at the center and one person had left the gathering. He cautioned that police did not know that if the person who left the party was one of the people who returned and opened fire." Now they know: It was Farook, who left before a group photo was to be taken, and returned with a determination to mass murder his colleagues.

The exact why is not known, although it seems unlikely that whatever happened at the party was a singular precipitating event. Farook and Malik clearly had a plan for which they'd been preparing, as indicated by the amassed weaponry and body armor. Further, that morning, they left their 6-month-old daughter with Farook's mother, telling her they had a doctor's appointment. "The grandmother grew worried when she heard of the shooting attack in San Bernardino, and 'she started calling. No answer,' [Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Los Angeles office] said. The family was worried the Farook and Malik were shot in the attacks, but then they started receiving calls from media outlets indicating that Farook was a person of interest."

Farook's family, some of whom appeared at a brief press conference with CAIR last night, appeared genuinely surprised and stricken that he and his wife had committed this terrible act. His brother-in-law Farhad Kahn said: "I have no idea why he would do that, why would he do something like this. I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself." His coworkers and neighbors are shocked.

In coming days, we may hear from other people that there were indications of Farook's and/or Malik's grievances. But, at the moment, there is no clear picture of their motivation.

Many media reports are framing this question as "workplace violence vs. terrorism," which is quite strange, as the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Workplace violence can be a form of terrorism, and ideological terrorism can manifest as workplace violence.

In any case, it's unclear at this point what motivated Farook, who was a US-born Muslim, to kill his colleagues and others. And what motivated his wife to kill alongside him.

After being briefed on the shooting, President Obama made a statement to CBS News, saying that we must "come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal. We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn't happen with the same frequency in other countries."

This is the 352nd mass shooting in the US so far this year. (Where "mass shooting" is defined as a shooting in which there are four or more injuries and/or deaths.) We haven't gone more than a week without a mass shooting in this country since 2013. This is our new normal. Our unfathomable, horrific new normal.

The ATF has confirmed two of the four firearms, the assault rifles, retrieved by investigators were legally purchased. They are still working to determine the origins of the other two weapons, the handguns, used in the shooting.

Lots and lots of conservative lawmakers tweeted "thoughts and prayers" to the people of San Bernardino yesterday, which was met with deserved derision, given the fact that an enormous number of these lawmakers received donations from the NRA during the last election cycle. Today's front page of the New York Daily News is absolutely extraordinary, reading in giant letters "GOD ISN'T FIXING THIS," and, below that "As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.," surrounded by images of tweets from Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan, with the word "prayers" highlighted.

At this point, elected officials offering "thoughts and prayers" is literally worse than nothing. They're empowered to do something real but refuse to do it. When I see an elected official, who could do something but refuses, tweeting/saying "thoughts and prayers," all I hear is "fuck you." It's a pretense of concern, while obdurately refusing to take meaningful action to prevent more violence. If that ain't a fuck you, what is?

If all they've got is prayers and thoughts, they should be praying for themselves to stop being craven shitlords and focus their thoughts on what vile and indecent opportunists they are.

And then there's this: If this heinous act of mass violence was indeed religiously motivated, as many of the people most vociferously offering prayers have already determined it to be, there is a particular foulness to responding with it exclusively with public prayer.

I am well aware that anyone inclined to offer prayer as their comprehensive solution to mass gun violence will disagree with me. I am happy to be in unyielding disagreement with any person who imagines the solution to an act of possible religious violence is more religion and more guns.

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I will update this post as more information becomes available. As always, please respect our usual request to keep these threads image-free.

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UPDATE 1: [CN: Video may autoplay at link] There were reports yesterday that explosive devices had been found and disabled at the scene of the shooting, and now this has been confirmed by law enforcement:
A bag believed to belong to the shooters was found in the conference room. Inside, investigators found three rudimentary explosive devices packed with black powder and rigged to a remote-controlled toy car. The remote for the toy car was found inside the SUV, a law enforcement official said.

That means the pair planned to use the remote to detonate the explosives from a distance, the official said. Either it didn't work because of distance or they just didn't do it. Authorities later rendered the explosive devices safe.
The couple's home was swept for further explosive devices, but none were found.

UPDATE 2: Per Ayloush, above-quoted executive director of CAIR's LA office, Malik was "a Pakistani-born immigrant who lived in Saudi Arabia before marrying Farook," after the two met on an online dating site.

The same article also notes that Farook's office "had recently held a shower for the couple's new baby, and the two seemed to be 'living the American dream,' said Patrick Baccari, a fellow inspector who shared a cubicle with Farook."

Although I understand what Baccari is saying, and why he is saying it, "The American Dream" is a deeply problematic narrative, particularly for people of color. And there is not a singular "American Dream." It would be foolish to ignore that a number of mass shooters have explicitly stated notoriety as a motivating factor for their dramatic, heinous violence. The truth with which we all have to reckon is that, for a lot of people who pick up guns and commit acts of mass murder, the infamy guaranteed by such acts is their "American Dream" realized.

UPDATE 3: At a press conference this morning, above-quoted police chief Burguan updated the number of wounded from 17 to 21. He reaffirmed that 14 people were killed, and said that the victims' names would be released later today, once families had all been notified. Law enforcement were delayed in identifying victims because of the explosives that were discovered, and also because fire sprinklers were triggered by the shooting, which slowed down officers' ability to clear the scene; they did not reach the bodies until nearly midnight. Said Burguan: "We've been working throughout the night on that and we have been working on notifications. We will release the names, hopefully of all 14 people today, as we make notifications."

Other information from the press conference:

* Malik was in the US on a fiancé visa.

* The two handguns used in the shooting were purchased legally by Farook, who had no criminal record. The two rifles used were also purchased legally, but by someone other than Farook.

* The third man, detained Wednesday when thought to be a shooter and/or accomplice, has no relation to the shooting.

* A large amount of ammunition and explosive supplies were found at the couple's home. Police found 2,000 9mm rounds, over 2,500 223 rounds, and several hundred 22 long rifle rounds, in addition to "12 pipe bomb type devices found in that house or in the garage of that house. There were also hundreds of tools, many of which could be used to construct IEDs or pipe bombs."

* During the search of the home, police also found "computer evidence, cellphones...thumb drives" and other electronic items, which will be processed, and hopefully will reveal some motive for the mass shooting, because, at this point, the motive remains elusive.

UPDATE 4: Authorities have released the names of the 14 people who were killed in the shooting: Robert Adams, 40; Isaac Amanios, 60; Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46; Harry Bowman, 46; Sierra Clayborn, 27; Juan Espinoza, 50; Aurora Godoy, 26; Shannon Johnson, 45; Larry Kaufman, 42; Damian Meins, 58; Tin Nguyen, 31; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52; Yvette Velasco, 27; and Michael Raymond Wetzel, 37. Rest in peace.

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