San Bernardino investigation: Focus on next-door neighbor who purchased two rifles used in attacks
SAN BERNARDINO — As federal authorities attempt to piece together the circumstances surrounding last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, their far-flung investigation has taken them as far away as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
But they have also returned, again and again, to a much closer source of clues: The house next door to the boyhood home of killer Sayed Farook.
Their efforts there are focused on a bespectacled Walmart employee, Enrique Marquez, and his purchase of a pair of rifles used in the attack that claimed 14 lives.
Marquez, who is cooperating with authorities, has acknowledged that he bought the two AR-15s for Farook several years ago and transferred them to Farook shortly thereafter but did not report the transfer of ownership, two law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Such transactions could be a violation of California law, the officials said.
Authorities initially said they did not believe Marquez had any involvement in the San Bernardino shooting plot carried out by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, law enforcement officials said. But his role is continuing to be evaluated as he cooperates with investigators and they assess his information, officials said.
Marquez, 24, has not been arrested. FBI Assistant Director David Bowdich was tight-lipped when asked about his status in the investigation at a news conference earlier this week. “I’m not prepared to discuss Mr. Marquez at this point,” Bowdich said.
Home raided, job terminated
Marquez, who was a state licensed security guard until his license expired last year, checked himself into a mental health facility in the wake of the attacks, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Heavily armed FBI agents descended on his home on Tomlinson Avenue in Riverside early Saturday to serve a search warrant, waking neighbors with a bullhorn announcement for the occupants to come to the door. Agents ultimately forced entry through the garage. They returned a day later for a consensual search to retrieve items not covered in the scope of the warrant, according to a law enforcement official.
Marquez could not be reached for comment. Relatives have declined to speak with CNN.
Agents also visited the Walmart store in Corona where Marquez worked. A spokesman for the retailer said Marquez has worked for Walmart since May but “the decision has been made to terminate him.”
A co-worker who asked not to be named said she was twice interviewed by FBI agents earlier this week. They asked about Marquez’s personality and interests, the co-worker said.
In a brief interview with CNN, she said she told investigators she had no knowledge of Marquez using weapons or of having any link to the killers, whom she did not know. She did not associate with Marquez outside of work, she said.
Neighbors and car-work buddies
Neighbors of the Tomlinson Avenue homes where Marquez and Farook lived next door to one another recalled the two working on cars together but did not know whether their relationship extended beyond that shared interest.
One neighbor, who asked not to be named, said Marquez seemed like a nice young man. “He was a good guy,” the neighbor said.
Another neighbor, Freddy Escamilla, said he’d recently run into Marquez on the street and that he was typically subdued, nodding hello but not saying much.
“He never really talked to anyone,” Escamilla said, adding that he was “really introverted. Very introverted.”
Marquez converted to Islam and attended mosque sermons on and off for a couple years, said Azmi Hasan, who has served as facility manager of the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco since 2000.
Hasan said Marquez attended sermons by himself but stopped coming about two years ago. He said he ran into Marquez, who he recalled as quiet and introverted, at a party and asked why he hadn’t been coming to sermons more often. He said Marquez explained that he’d been busy.
Hasan said Sayed Farook’s sister and brother-in-law also attended the mosque but that he’d never seen Marquez in their company.