Sisters of Rizwan Farook not ashamed of their brother and sis-in-law act of mass shooting

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — They sat in the kitchen of a modest beige stucco home here Friday night — two sisters reeling over an event that has devastated this community and, by the sisters’ account, their family. Two of their children watched cartoons in the next room as a lawyer sat by their side.

For nearly an hour, Saira Khan and Eba Farook, the two sisters of Syed Rizwan Farook, the man suspected of the mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino, expressed anguish at the tragedy that has engulfed this community. But they said they had seen no warning that Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were preparing for an assault that would leave 14 people dead and 21 injured.

“It’s the very opposite of what we were taught,” Ms. Farook said.

The authorities say the couple assembled an arsenal of weapons in the house that they shared with Mr. Farook’s mother, where they found 12 completed pipe bombs and a stockpile of thousands of rounds of ammunition. The presence of these weapons, they say, could indicate that the couple were planning more attacks. The mother was interviewed for nine hours by the authorities about the attack.

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Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting. Credit California Department of Motor Vehicles

But the sisters said they were baffled by what had happened. Their brother had seemed happy with his wife and 6-month-old baby, they said.

Asked if she felt shame, Ms. Farook said: “I am not ashamed to be Muslim. I am not ashamed to be American either, and I am not ashamed to be Pakistani either. I think shame is for people who feel guilty about something.”

The sisters said they had stopped watching the news.

“It’s harder for us to understand, especially knowing that he was our brother and he was so happy with her,” said Ms. Khan, referring to Ms. Malik. “How can he leave his only child, you know? And how could the mother do this?”

The lawyer, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, helped arrange the interview, but is not representing the family. The children — a 2-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son — were Ms. Khan’s.

Ms. Farook, 24, said she had watched the tragedy unfold on television in fear, knowing that her brother worked for the health department and was part of a daylong gathering at the Inland Regional Center, where the attack took place. “We were just scared — we thought maybe they were hurt or were victims,” she said.

Ms. Khan said she and her husband intended to adopt the couple’s 6-month-old daughter, whom they had left with Mr. Farook’s mother before embarking on the rampage. The police have said that the child was taken into custody by the federal authorities working with the county’s child protective services, and that there would be a hearing soon on the issue of temporary custody.

Ms. Khan was dressed in long pants and a silky green patterned blouse, her head fully covered by a black head scarf. Dressed in a T-shirt and bluejeans, Ms. Farook wore no head covering; her long wavy hair hung to her shoulders.

The sisters described Mr. Farook as quiet and religious. “We’re trying to be helpful with the investigation,” Ms. Farook said. “People want answers and we do as well.”

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