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San Bernardino shooting: An ill-fated friendship leads to California tragedy

Enrique Marquez Jr. moved to Riverside, Calif., a decade ago. The young teenager would soon meet a new friend — the man living in the house next door, Syed Rizwan Farook.

Neighbours Syed Rizwan Farook and Enrique Marquez planned several attacks before San Bernardino shooting

Security was tight after a car carrying Enrique Marquez Jr. arrived at U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., on Thursday. (Nick Ut/The Associated Press)

Enrique Marquez Jr. moved to Riverside, Calif., a decade ago. The young teenager would soon meet a new friend — the man living in the house next door, Syed Rizwan Farook.

An FBI affidavit released Thursday provides a close-up look of the fateful friendship that would bind the two young men, that within a few years would turn to talk of radical Islamic ideology and plans, never carried out, to attack a college they had attended or slaughter motorists on a nearby highway.

Farook, 28, along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, died Dec. 2 in a gunfight with police after killing 14 of his co-workers at a holiday gathering. The 24-year-old Marquez was charged Thursday with terrorism-related counts, including illegally purchasing two assault rifles used in the attack. Prosecutors said there is currently no evidence Marquez participated in the Dec. 2 attack or had advance knowledge of it.

Friendship led to radicalization

In this artist's sketch, Enrique Marquez, centre, appears in federal court in Riverside, Calif., Thursday. Marquez, 24, was charged Thursday with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists for plotting with gunman Syed Rizwan Farook to launch attacks in 2011 and 2012 at a community college and congested freeway at rush hour that they never carried out. (Bill Robles/The Associated Press)

Here are the emerging details of Marquez and Farook's relationship:

  • Proximity brought them together. Marquez moved in next door. A federal criminal complaint said the men met in Farook's garage — he was known to tinker with cars. By late that year, Farook was discussing Islam with the younger Marquez, and soon Marquez visited a mosque and was praying more frequently at Farook's home.
  • In 2007, Marquez converted to Islam. Around that time Farook introduced him to radical Islamic ideology, the complaint said. By 2011, Marquez began spending most of his time at Farook's home, where he watched videos involving radical Islamic content and reads Inspire magazine, an official publication of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. 
  • Then, Marquez and Farook began planning attacks in southern California. That included buying guns. Marquez told investigators that around late 2011 he and Farook planned to bomb a crowded cafeteria or library at a local community college, or mow down motorists with gunfire on a gridlocked southern California freeway, with both plots intended to maximize casualties, according to the documents charging Marquez.

Marquez said he and Farook planned the plot on Riverside Community College because both had been students there and knew where the biggest crowds gathered and what the best escape routes would be, according to the documents.

He said the men specifically planned to toss pipe bombs into crowds of students in the cafeteria from the second floor, a spot that would allow them to get out for another phase of the attack. FBI agents said Marquez even drew them a diagram on a campus map.

Freeway attack

In the freeway attack plan, the two identified a stretch of eastbound state Route 91 where traffic is usually badly congested in the afternoon and there are no nearby exits for motorists to flee.

Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook are pictured passing through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in this July 27, 2014 handout photo obtained by Reuters. The couple killed 14 people in San Bernardino earlier this month. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Reuters)

Farook planned to toss a pipe bomb to stop traffic, then walk along the freeway firing at motorists, Marquez told investigators. Marquez's role would be to stay in the hills above, shooting drivers from there and firing on police as they arrived.

Marquez bought a pair of AR-15 rifles from a sporting goods store that were planned to be use in these abandoned attacks. But Farook and his wife would later use them in the San Bernardino shootings. The purchases were unlawful, prosecutors allege, because Marquez signed legal documents saying the guns were for only the personal use of himself and his immediate family.

The pair decided Marquez should buy the guns because his appearance was less likely to draw suspicion than Farook, whose parents were born in Pakistan, Marquez said.

Sham marriage

In 2013, their relationship begins to deteriorate and Marquez told investigators they ceased planning attacks. The following year, Farook married his accomplice in the San Bernardino shootings, Malik.

In the course of the investigation, investigators say Marquez disclosed that he was paid $200 monthly to enter into a "sham" marriage with the Russian sister of one of Farook's in-laws to allow her to stay in the U.S.

The woman he married on Nov. 29, 2014, is the sister of Farook's brother's wife. The legal pairing created a family tie between Marquez and Farook — Marquez became a brother-in-law to Farook's brother, Syed Raheel Farook, and gave Marquez and his friend a common sister-in-law.

Marquez faces an immigration fraud charge for the marriage.

911 call

The court records included a partial transcript of a 911 call Marquez made in the hours after the San Bernardino shootings. In the call, he tells the operator he'd given a gun to suspect Farook for "storage." The call indicates the apparently distraught Marquez was also considering suicide.

The operator asks, "Why do you feel like you want to kill yourself?"

Marquez answers that his neighbour did the shooting.

The dispatcher then asks, "He used your gun?"

Marquez answers, "Yes. Oh my God." 

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