In days before massacre, San Bernardino couple practiced at gun ranges, FBI says

Before they carried out the late-morning massacre in San Bernardino last week, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik did something chilling only in retrospect:

They went to local shooting ranges for target practice, including a visit just days before the rampage.

It was among the most striking details released Monday by authorities seeking to piece together the lives of the husband and wife responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack – 14 dead, 21 wounded – in the U.S. since those of Sept. 11, 2001. Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, were killed hours after the massacre in a shootout with police.

“We believe both were radicalized and had been for some time,” David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told reporters Monday. “How did that happen and by whom and where did that happen? I will tell you right now, we don’t know those answers at this point.”

Officials have said Malik declared on Facebook her allegiance to the Islamic State and that Farook was in touch over the phone and via social media with multiple subjects under FBI surveillance for suspected terrorism.

An instructor at Riverside Magnum Range said surveillance footage confirmed Farook had been at the range on Nov. 29 and 30. Instructor John Galletta said that at one point, Farook asked a range representative to check his rifle because it was smoking. Galletta said the person told him that was likely because it was new.

The FBI’s latest comments came Monday as thousands of San Bernardino County employees returned to work for the first time since the attack.

The couple opened fire Wednesday in a room at Inland Regional Center, where Farook’s health department colleagues were holding a holiday luncheon and training session. Farook, a restaurant inspector, attended the event, then left abruptly, returning later with his wife and spraying as many as 75 rounds from their weapons.

At a news conference, county officials promised increased security measures at facilities as they continue to assess what changes should be made. Among the expected measures: posting armed guards, who are permitted to engage and detain suspects, in some locations.

Counseling centers and a hotline are in place for county employees and their families, officials said.

Trudy Raymundo, director of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, choked back tears as she spoke at the news conference.

“I want you to be grateful every day for those of us that were spared,” she said. “We are strong and we are a family. We held each other and protected each other through this horrific event, and we will continue … through the unmanageable weeks ahead.”

Another new detail that emerged Monday: County health employees held an “active shooter” drill in the same room where they were gathered last week during the attack. County spokeswoman Felisa Cardona could not say whether Farook attended last fall’s training drill.

Meanwhile, the couple’s 6-month-old baby, whom they left with Farook’s mother, remains in custody of San Bernardino County Child Protective Services.

Farook’s sister Saira Khan hopes to adopt the child. She and her mother attended the first custody hearing on Monday, according to a news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles area office in Anaheim. A second hearing is scheduled for January.

FBI officials also said Monday that they have conducted more than 400 interviews as part of their investigation. Authorities still had no other information on Enrique Marquez, a former neighbor of Farook’s suspected of providing him with two military-style rifles used in the attack. He has not been charged, and he checked himself in to a mental health facility on Friday, The Washington Post reported.

The massacre has shaken the nerves of the nation, and on Sunday, President Barack Obama appeared on national television for a rare prime-time address. He said the attack was an “act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”

Farook, who is of Pakistani descent, was born in Chicago and grew up in Southern California. Malik, whom he met online, was born in Pakistan and lived most recently in Saudi Arabia. He traveled overseas to meet her, and in July 2014 the pair returned to the U.S. She held a so-called fiancee visa, which allowed her into the country under the condition she would marry a citizen within 90 days. The couple got their marriage license in Riverside County in August 2014.

While there is no evidence the shooters were directed by a terrorist network overseas or were part of a broader plot, “the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization,” Obama said.

Presidential candidates have quickly seized on the attack, with GOP hopeful Donald Trump calling Monday for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Other GOP candidates denounced the comments.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that investigators are trying to learn how the couple got money to buy their guns and massive amounts of ammunition and pipe-building materials.

Farook last year made about $53,400 in his county job, and Malik did not work. The pair rented a Redlands townhouse, where his mother also lived.

“There’s a serious investigation ongoing into what she was doing in Pakistan and in Saudi,” McCaul said. “We think that she had a lot to do with the radicalization process and perhaps with Mr. Farook’s radicalization from within the United States.”

Staff reporters Imran Ghori, Alejandra Molina and Janet Zimmerman contributed to this report; information from The Associated Press and The Washington Post also was used.

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