Some Thoughts on the San Bernardino Mass Shooting: Dec 3, 2015
As many of you might have heard, a Muslim husband-wife “team” shot up an office Christmas party in San Bernardino yesterday. While we still lack enough information to understand their precise motivations, currently available evidence suggests that the religious beliefs of shooters played a major role in their decision to do what they did. Having said that- this particular incident raises some interesting, and as yet unanswered, questions.
Question 1: What drove Syed Rizwan Farook to shoot up his own office Christmas Party? and why his own office Christmas Party?
Syed Farook was an US born 28-year old guy with a stable and well paid job with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for five years prior to the shooting. There is, currently, no evidence that he had any prior history of mental health issues or a significant criminal record. He also had no history of aggressively proselytizing his religion or expressing hatred for non-believers. By all accounts he was a quiet, polite and otherwise normal co-worker. There is also no evidence that his job or career was in any jeopardy. Perhaps most significantly, he was not on any watch-list for potential terrorists or religious radicals.
How does a guy with such a benign and unassuming profile go about shooting up his own office Christmas party? Why would this guy build an arsenal of pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices in his house? Shooting up a large group of people is not the result of a momentary lapse of mind. What would get a married guy with a 6-month old daughter and a decent and stable job to harbor such deep-seated resentment against people he worked with? What was in it for him?
Question 2: What was the role of his wife and co-shooter, Tashfeen Malik, in the shootings? Why was she so willing to participate?
It is no secret that the perpetrators of mass shootings are almost always male. The active participation of his wife in this mass shooting does therefore raise the next big question- What was in it for her? This is especially so because she had a 6-month old baby daughter. There is also no evidence that she neglected or abused her daughter. So what makes a 27-year old university-educated woman with a 6-month old daughter leave her daughter with the grandparents and go on a shooting spree with her husband?
There is also the question about the exact circumstances under which she first met her husband. While currently available information suggests that she met him online, we still don’t know where exactly they first crossed paths. Where does a supposedly devout Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia meet a guy living in Southern California? What were the shared interests that initially brought them together. At this moment, we simply don’t know enough about the backstory of this couple.
Question 3: Why did they chose to shoot up his office Christmas party? What made it a more attractive target than a mall, theater or concert?
Terrorists tend to kill people in a manner that results in the maximum casualties as well as the maximum media exposure. Given their proximity to the Los Angeles metropolitan area which is far richer in soft targets, it is odd that they chose a venue with relatively fewer (70-80) people. I am actually surprised that they did not go on multiple shooting sprees in the LA metropolitan area- especially since they had more than enough ammunition to kill many more people. What made shooting up the office Christmas party more attractive than killing more at other venues?
Question 4: How much did their family and friends really know about their plans? Were they in contact with similar minded people in that part of the country?
Most of you have probably seen his relatives say something to the effect that they had no idea he was so radicalized. But is that really the case? It is clear that he was on good terms with more than a few of his close relatives. Did they really not notice that he was building pipe bombs in his townhouse and garage? Did they really not notice that he was making multiple improvised explosive devices in his house? Then there is the question of whether he was working with like-minded people in that part of California. Why would he make so many explosive devices for his own killing spree? Could more than a few of those devices have been made for some of his like-minded friends?
Question 5: Why is there no internet manifesto or video explaining his motivations for doing what he did? And what is the reason behind the couple destroying their smartphones and computer hard drives before embarking on their shooting spree?
As many of you know, mass shooters often leave behind some sort of written manifesto or video explaining what drive them to do what they did. So why did this couple not do so? This is especially puzzling as there are reports of them recording the mass shooting with GoPro-type body cameras. Why record something if you don’t want to share it with others? Or.. have they already sent that video to somebody in another country? Also, why destroy their smartphones and hide (and or destroy) the hard drives in their PCs? Who or what were they trying to protect?
In my opinion, this particular atypical mass shooting raises many more questions than previous events with similar body counts.
What do you think? Comments?