'The Worst Thing Imaginable'

New report details San Bernardino terror attack.

On the Friday before the fifteenth anniversary of 911, a new report emerged on the terrorist attack of December 2, 2015, the day Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Bringing Calm to Chaos: A Police Foundation Review of the San Bernardino Terrorist Attacks provides a chilling description by those on the scene.

“Out of the blue, multiple popping sounds crackled outside,” the report says. “Several of the county workers thought fireworks had been lit, but others recognized the sound as gunfire.” The burst claimed two victims, then the terrorists headed inside, to a room decorated for a holiday party.

“Suddenly, a door swung open and a person clad in all black, with a mask shielding his or her face, stepped inside, wielding what appeared to be an automatic rifle. Without saying a word, the person, now believed to be Rizwan Farook (the male assailant), opened fire.” Then Tashfeen Malik followed. “She also wore all black and entered the room shooting. Together, the shooters fired more than 100 rounds.”  The shooters then “hastily departed, heading out to a black SUV they had parked just outside, leaving behind a chaotic scene of noise, fear, and pain.”

As a patrol officer said, “It was the worst thing imaginable—some people were quiet, hiding, others were screaming or dying, grabbing at your legs because they wanted us to get them out, but our job at the moment was to keep going, That was the hardest part, stepping over them.”

As the patrol officer said:  “I felt so naked, because we didn’t have cover and concealment approaching the building. You know you are outgunned, it is going to be hard to beat an AR with a handgun, so I knew we needed good shot placement.”  In the ensuing chase and gun battle, they would get it.

Farook fired from the front of the black SUV with Malik, firing from the back seat “out of a hole in the rear hatch of the vehicle.” All told they fired at least 81 rounds at the police, wounding one officer, who stayed in the fight as another officer dressed his wounds. One deputy “fired every gun that was available to him, consisting of a Mini-14, a shotgun, and a handgun.”

Police shooters hit Syed Farook 25 times, including one shot in the chin. The 13 shots that took down Tashfeen Malik included 13 two to her head. Inside the SUV the police found “an additional 1,879 rounds of .223 ammunition and another 484 rounds of 9-mm ammunition.” Police also found “trigger apparatus to detonate the secondary devices” at the Regional Center, a reference to bombs intended to increase the death toll among the first responders, a terrorist calling card.

Bringing Calm to Chaos makes it clear that police responded quickly and fought as bravely as any troops in front-line combat, with little collateral damage. While the report is very thorough on the killer’s means and opportunity, it says little about the killers’ motive.

Syeed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were pious Muslims who murdered innocent people in the name of Islam. Yet from the start, the Washington establishment denied or downplayed that motive, and even hesitated to invoke terrorism. When that could not be denied, the alibi armory broke out its Islamophobia incantation.

Syeda Jafri, spokewoman for Rialto Unified School District, near San Bernardino, told the reporters, “It’s a tragedy that the distortion of Islam is being so boldly manipulated by a few,” adding, “We will overcome this hysteria and Islamophobia through education.” For their part, local Muslims supplied some hysteria of their own. 

According to Tina Aoun, director of the Middle Eastern Student Center at UC Riverside, “Many of my Muslim friends, among others, have doubts about the FBI’s narrative of what happened. That’s because the story has so many holes in it. It doesn’t make any sense. Why did the FBI and police release the crime scene in the house in Redlands only one day after the shooting? Why would terrorists have a baby? Why would they target a facility for children with disabilities?”

Benjamin B. Wagner then U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, referred to “the massacre” in San Bernardino. For the Obama appointee, it was a “tragic reminder” of the danger that foreign organizations seek to “radicalize” Americans and inspire “violent acts.” Wagner did not name Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani national, and American-born Syeed Farook, the Muslim perpetrators of the December 2 terrorist attack. Neither did Wagner name a single one of their 14 victims, who included African Americans, Hispanics and immigrants.

The anniversary of this atrocity is coming up on December 2 and the new president might use the occasion to chart a new course. The San Bernardino attack wasn’t “workplace violence.” It was the mass murder of innocents by Muslim terrorists acting on behalf of their religion, Islam. As the police report said, “it was the worst thing imaginable.”