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Mass Shooting Investigation; Suspects Were Not On Law Enforcement Radar. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 3, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with breaking news in the national lead. We're learning brand-new details on that horrific shooting in San Bernardino, California, where 14 innocent people who had their lives stolen from them, we're only now learning their names.

Just minutes ago, we learned the identity of the first of the victims. His name is Nicholas Thalasinos. He was 52 years old. His wife, Jennifer, confirming that he was among the murdered.

This massacre is the deadliest mass shooting to happen in the United States since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Today, we're learning about a possible link that these killers had to terrorism. Law enforcement officials telling CNN that it appears the male shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook, by many accounts a devout Muslim, had apparently been radicalized and was in touch with at least one international terrorism contact on the FBI's radar.

Both shooters were killed during an hours-long gunfight yesterday when police tore into his rented SUV, tore it to pieces in a hail of bullets, a neighbor capturing some of that showdown on his cell phone. CNN is covering all the new developments, including these possible terror links with our team on the ground.

At this hour at -- the law enforcement officials in California are searching through the Redlands garage rented by the killer couple. They're looking to nail down a definitive motive beyond their suspicions. Authorities believe this, of course, was a carefully staged attack.


JARROD BURGUAN, SAN BERNARDINO POLICE CHIEF: There appears to be a degree of planning that went into this. Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of elaborate scheme or plan to come back and do that. So there was some planning that went into this.


TAPPER: Inside the killer couple's rental home, investigators found 12 pipe bombs, we learned today, as well as other bomb-making materials and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition, along with thumb drives, cell phones and computers that are also being analyzed.

Investigators found another 1,600 rounds of ammunition inside that rented SUV the couple used to perpetrate the horrific attack. As investigators dig into the lives of the slain murderer, Syed Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, we are reporting today, CNN, that sources are telling us that he was, in addition to being a devout Muslim, apparently radicalized at some point in the last couple years.

For more on this radicalization and the ongoing investigation, let's go straight to CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown, who is on the ground in San Bernardino.

Pamela, what specifically has the FBI discovered about Farook's ties to potential terrorists?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Jake, my colleague Evan Perez speaking to his sources who tell him a working theory is that the gunman, Syed Farook, may have been radicalized.

But I can tell you from folks I have been speaking with, investigators still very puzzled about this case. We know the FBI is still stepping in and at this point still trying to determine whether this was a case of terrorism or a workplace dispute or perhaps a blend of both.


BROWN (voice-over): FBI investigators are looking at indications Syed Farook may have been radicalized. Phone communications reveal the gunman had been in touch with FBI terrorism subjects over the last several years, though officials say they were not considered high- priority subjects.

BURGUAN: He was not on the radar screen of our agency prior to yesterday.

BROWN: Law enforcement officials say Farook's behavior at a company holiday party Wednesday raised concerns with at least one witness.

BURGUAN: We did have some initial information that he left under some kind of duress or as if he was angry. We also had somebody else say that he just kind of disappeared. We don't know where he went from there.

BROWN: He later returned to launch his attack.

Patrick Baccari shared a cubicle with Farook and worked with him for three years. He was drying his hands in the restroom when the shooting began.

PATRICK BACCARI, CO-WORKER: I thought somebody booby-trapped the towel dispenser because I was being pummelled when I was pulling the towels out of the dispenser. And so I looked back in the mirror. I could see I was bleeding in my temple, my nose, and then there's other little fragments. They hit me all over the place.

BROWN: One reason investigators believe this might have been more than just a workplace dispute is the cache of explosives and ammunitions they found. Officials say it's clear there was planning before the attack.


BURGUAN: If you look at the amount of obvious preplanning that went in, the amount of armaments that he had, the weapons and the ammunition, there was obviously a mission here. We know that. We do not know why.

BROWN: Right now, investigators are scrutinizing Farook's overseas travel. CNN has learned he traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2013. During that time, officials believe he met his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, who helped Farook carry out the attack.

Farook was born in the U.S. and a dating profile he had set up said he's from a -- quote -- "religious and modern family" and -- quote -- "enjoys traveling and just hanging out in the backyard doing target practice" with his younger sister and friends.

Farook's family says they are stunned.

FARHAN KHAN, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF FAROOK: I have no idea. Why would he do that? Why would he do something like this? I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself.


BROWN: And we know some key evidence is being sent right now to the FBI lab in Virginia.

What investigators are waiting for anxiously right now are the returns from the findings on his laptop, on his phones, as well as his wife's phones. That could be key in helping investigators determining if this was in fact an act of terrorism or not -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

With me now, Phil Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official, and Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director at the FBI and president of the security firm CrowdStrike.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Phil, right now, what steps are law enforcement officials taking to gather as much information as they can about these individuals? We all suspect we might know what the motive is. But they don't seem -- the FBI and others don't seem 100 percent positive that they can state it outright.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I wouldn't be worried about motive right now. You have got to think about rings of investigation. The first is imminent threat. Is there anything in terms of conversations with neighbors, with family, or friends, on his Facebook page that suggests there's another event out there? The second ring right outside that is co-conspirators. Are there

other people who were involved who might go out and do something today or tomorrow? Then you step back for just a moment and say are there people who are aware, are there people who provided training, who heard him talk about a conspiracy six months ago, a year ago?

So you got to first look at the issue of imminent threat, public safety. The motivation issue is interesting, but right now that doesn't have to do with imminent threat. That has to do with preventive measures down the road. I wouldn't be focused on that right now.

TAPPER: Shawn, how long does it take to prepare for something like this? Because, obviously, as the police chief said, they didn't -- he didn't just have a fight at work or at this Christmas party, go home and then come back with all these guns and all these bombs with wearing the outfit he was wearing.

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, it's certainly going to take time to find those weapons, to get the ammunition, and that was a pretty substantial amount of ammunition, putting those bombs together. Acquiring the materials, et cetera, is going to some take time and likely had some help, very big possibility.

One thing I would mention, what Phil said, he's absolutely right. The imminent threat is going to be the top priority. But as you start to determine what the motive is, you might also uncover some intelligence that would also help assist if there's something down the road that you might be able to prevent.

TAPPER: And, Phil, law enforcement said Farook had an explosives lab in his home, where they discovered at least 12 IEDs or pipe bombs. How easy are these to put together?

MUDD: Too easy. If you're looking, for example, at triggers that might indicate to law enforcement or intelligence officials that there's an attack in place, this is the kind of thing you can learn to do over the Internet.

So if you're looking at a trigger that might lead somebody, the FBI, for example, to say, look at this guy, he might stage something imminently, the kind of information he's acquiring to build a pipe bomb doesn't take a lot of expertise. I'm not looking at that necessarily as a trigger that tells me this guy's going to conduct an operation.

TAPPER: And, Shawn, there seems to be this question of, was it terrorism, was it workplace violence? But Paul Cruickshank, one of our terrorism advisers, has noted there have been several instances of both, where somebody has committed terrorist attacks, ISIS-inspired, against their co-workers.

In September 2014, Moore, Oklahoma, a suspect beheaded one woman, attacked another. And that was considered terrorist. In June 2015, Leon, France, somebody else hung and then I think beheaded his boss. And then I believe he took a picture and sent it to ISIS. So it can be a combination.

HENRY: You know, Jake, we have talked about this before. What makes somebody move from being aspirational to being operational, where they're actually taking action, they're acquiring the weapons, and then they're asserting an act?

Is there something that happened in the workplace where this person possibly could have been inspired, radicalized, and there's something that happened in the workplace that caused them to take their action out there? As opposed to some random place, they're motivated by a particular act or a particular person in the workplace.

TAPPER: Although, Phil, we also know that he rented this car, which does suggest that there was some sort of planning to do it at this point.

I mean, the cache of weapons, that could be at any point you could do that, including with the bombs. But the idea you're renting a car, that suggests the sort of imminence if you're using the SUV for that purpose.


MUDD: That's right.

It clearly, in terms of the acquisition of the vehicle, the amount of rounds they had, suggests that there was planning involved here. But we're too quick to say black, white, terrorism, nonterrorism. I would step back and say, there are hybrids here. You can have a hybrid that says, I have been disadvantaged in the workplace. People are prejudiced against me. I should be moving forward more quickly. And, by the way, there's a motivation out there provided by some preacher on the Internet that says that the murder of innocents is acceptable.

I think we're way too quick to categorize this into a simple basket. It's not clear to me that we have a cut-and-dry case here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mudd, Shawn Henry, thank you so much for your expertise.

And 300 police officers all tracking down two suspects, and in just hours after the shooting started, those two suspects had been tracked down and had been killed, the car chase, police shoot-out and the tactics used to find them so quickly -- next.


[16:15:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

It has been a tragically eventful 24 hours for law enforcement in San Bernardino. Within just two hours after the loud, bloody massacre, multiple agencies swiftly went in piecing together evidence and witness accounts to track down this man, Syed Rizwan Farook, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, armed with 1,600 bullets and bombs.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Bernardino and Shedden, I see one guy down and one guy in the back of a car.

TAPPER (voice-over): A mess of blood and broke glass left in the wake of a violent final act with the two suspects accused of murdering 14 people.

The last hours of their twisted plan played out like this: 11:00 a.m. Pacific, law enforcement swarm in after reports of multiple active shooters at San Bernardino's Inland Regional Center. Hundreds of workers are evacuated by police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to relax. Everyone try to relax.

TAPPER: But the shooters remain unaccounted for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take a bullet before you do. That's for damn sure. Just be cool, OK?

TAPPER: Tim Hillard was filming the chaos from his office.

TIM HILLARD, WITNESS: I see two bodies, one hunched over on a bench looks like a male to be deceased and another female 15 feet away laying in a pool of blood.

TAPPER: Two hours later, police remain unaware of the killers' whereabouts.

SGT. VICKI CERVANTES, SAN BERNARDINO POLICE: At least one of the shooters may have left in a black SUV.

TAPPER: Three-twenty p.m., just miles from the massacre, police engage in a shootout with those inside that vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working from positions of advantage right now.

TAPPER: Firing nearly 400 rounds.



TAPPER: Terrified neighbors watch -- as a chase that began near the suspect's apartment ends with both shooters dead.

Five-thirty p.m. Pacific, law enforcement return in force to the apartment with a search warrant, unsure of who or what is inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to the front door. It's the FBI.

TAPPER: Worried about booby-traps, police send a robot eventually to break through the door.

Back at the regional center, the scene is just as fragile. A cluster of pipe bombs are discovered.

CHIEF JARROD BURGUAN, SAN BERNARDINO POLICE: They're taking a very cautious, slow approach to processing that building and rendering that safe.

TAPPER: Ten p.m. Pacific, some resolution.

BURGUAN: The two suspects that were in that car are both deceased. And I have their names.


TAPPER: Joining me from San Bernardino, California, is retired police chief Jim Buerrmann, formerly of the Redlands, California Police Department. As well as CNN law enforcement analyst Arthur Roderick, a former assistant director of the U.S. Marshals.

Arthur, let me start with you. The law enforcement response yesterday is being applauded. It's being heralded. What about it do you think was particularly effective?

ARTHUR RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the fact that usually in these types of situations responses are anywhere from seven to 12 minutes. This was a 4-minute response. And I think because of that immediate response, they were able to collect information right away that led them to the actual suspect vehicle, which I think and I've talked to a lot of my law enforcement friends out there, and I think that they were ready to hit a second target or either come back and possibly hit the same location where the C.P. was being set up and the triage area was being set up.

TAPPER: Chief Buerrmann, these two killers were armed to the teeth as Art suggests with more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition in their car, 5,000 rounds at their home, along with 12 pipe bombs. How do police train to deal with individuals who are packing that kind of heat?

JIM BUERRMANN, PRESIDENT, THE POLICE FOUNDATION: Well, I think every situation is different, but they're trained to protect themselves. And when somebody engages them in the kind of gunfire that they did, they're going to return with a lot more gunfire if possible. And that's what you saw yesterday.

TAPPER: Art, given the weapons used, the level of preplanning that is suspected, do you believe as you just suggested that they had other attacks planned? Does that seem likely to you?

RODERICK: No, that's fine.

I think they did. I think they did have other attacks planned. And I think because of the quick response and the fact that that police officer kind of ran into them as they were coming back to the Redlands house is exactly what stopped those future attacks.

To have that amount of ammunition, those weapons, those pipe bombs in that vehicle, I think they were heading to another location to do some more damage. BUERRMANN: I completely agree with the fact they were masked up, they

didn't want anybody to identify them. The fact that they went through the house in Redlands where there was more ammo and they had the amount of ammunition and weaponry they had with them and the fact even after the police are chasing them and they're engaged this that gun battle, they're heading back to the original scene knowing full well there are hundreds of police officers there indicating they had something else up their sleeve.

[16:20:02] TAPPER: Chief, were you surprised at all that the killers were found and taken down so quickly?

BUERRMANN: No, not really. I think it's fortunate they did. They obviously could have taken steps to get out of the area, but the law enforcement agencies in this region cooperate really, really well. And when that mutual aid call went out, there were hundreds of police officers that got into this area very, very quickly. And everybody in the whole east valley part of this county was looking for these folks.

So, it doesn't surprise me at all because we've seen this happen not with incidents that are anywhere near this horrific but with other kinds of things like bank robberies or other kinds of shootings.

TAPPER: Art, how likely do you think it is that there are other individuals out there who were part of this conspiracy who may also be posing a danger, as we just heard former CIA official Phil Mudd talk about?

RODERICK: I think there has to be. When you look at the logistics, the communication that went into this, the planning, there has to be other people that helped them out there. I think one of the key parts too is in these responses by law enforcement, the law enforcement officers, the first ones on the scene are basic patrolmen. They have a handgun, they might have a shotgun. They have a standard vest.

And they're going up against somebody with an AR-15 or AK-47, that puts them at a huge disadvantage. We have to start looking at how our first responders are equipped when they go into situations like this.

TAPPER: And, Chief, I'm not sure if you've seen the footage but we just aired it and there is a scene where one of the officers inside the Inland Regional Center is -- he's evacuating employees out of the building and he says, I'll take a bullet before any of you. How important --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take a bullet before you do, that's for damn sure.


TAPPER: There you just heard it. How important is that kind of reassurance in a situation like this?

BUERRMANN: Well, it's critically important. These people were tremendously traumatized. I mean, if you can kind of envision what they were going through, they've had the scare of their life. I can't even imagine what they were going through. And to have somebody like a police officer come in and make that heroic statement to them that they believe because he means it, he is going to do that, he is going to take a bullet before he lets somebody hurts them, gives those people who had their life shattered, gives them some hope they're going to get out of this thing alive.

TAPPER: All right. Former Redlands police chief, Jim Buerrmann, and Arthur Roderick, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Communications with more than one suspected terrorist overseas, new details are coming in right now about the male shooter's radicalization. That's next.

Plus, his wife -- what do we know about her? What do we know about her role in this plot? What could possibly drive the mother of a 6- month-old baby to drop off the child and then participate in this horrific act?


[16:27:28] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're continuing with our breaking news. Right now law enforcement officials telling CNN they still have not found a definitive and proven motive for the deadly attacks in San Bernardino. They are, of course, coming through the backgrounds of the killers, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik to piece together a picture of what specifically motivated the shooting.

Sources tell CNN that Farook, a devout Muslim by many accounts may have been radicalized. He did recently travel to Saudi Arabia where he met his wife.

Let's get right to CNN justice reporter Evan Perez. He's been speaking to his sources.

Evan, I have to say there are a lot of people out there saying obviously this is Islamic terrorism.


TAPPER: Law enforcement not there, at least not yet. Why?

PEREZ: They're really not there. And right now frankly the working theory they have is this might well be one of those hybrid cases where someone might have radicalization in their background, but also perhaps had some working beef, some beef with people at his workplace. And that's perhaps maybe what triggered the shooting yesterday or at least played a role.

We do know that they believe that there are indications that there was radicalization that was happening there with this shooter, and perhaps his wife as well. The fact that you have two of them carrying out this shooting together leaving behind their 6-month-old daughter really does break the mold from some of the cases that we have seen recently, Jake.

And also, the fact they're looking at some of the contacts that he's had with people who have been on the FBI's radar counterterrorism investigations. They were not. They were not known at all until this event yesterday.

But they had contacts with people. So now the question is what do those contacts mean?

TAPPER: Right.

PEREZ: Right now, it doesn't appear to be a lot, but that's something the FBI's chasing down.

TAPPER: Of course, there have been these hybrids before. We talked about it earlier in the show in Moore, Oklahoma. In Lyon, France, individuals seemly inspired by ISIS killing co-workers or in one case a boss.

But one of the things that's so odd about this case in addition to the husband, wife and dropping off the 6-month-old is the amount of supplies that these two have. This wasn't just a couple with a knife.

Do investigators have any idea how they got the components to make these IEDs? To acquire 1,600 rounds of ammunition on them as well as thousands more. And was it legal?

PEREZ: Right. That's the thing. I mean, everything that they had appears to have been legal. The improvised explosive device that they left behind at the first scene at the first shooting was made -- was a rudimentary device. It was not a very sophisticated device.