San Bernardino shooter's friend could provide important clues

Syed Rizwan Farook's high school friend, Enrique Marquez, supplied two of the weapons used in the mass shootings. Who is he?

Jae C. Hong/AP
Arlene Payan holds a candle during a vigil to honor shooting victims on Monday, in San Bernardino, Calif. The husband and wife who opened fire on a social services center last week had been radicalized 'for quite some time' and had taken target practice at area gun ranges, in one instance just days before the attack that left 14 people dead, the FBI said Monday.

Details are starting to trickle out about a young man – Enrique Marquez – who purchased two of the weapons used in the San Bernardino shootings on December 2, thrusting him into the middle of a federal investigation.

The picture that’s emerging of the 24-year-old Walmart clerk who supplied some of the weapons used in the mass shooting at a social services center, is of a quiet, awkward, and sometimes lonely man.

According to descriptions of those who know him, Mr. Marquez seemed an unremarkable figure drifting through life, somehow right into the fringes of radical Islam.

"It was hard to make a conclusion about what he was like," Sid Hashemi, director of operations at Power Security Group told Reuters. Power Security is a small firm based in Corona that hired Marquez part time for a few months in 2013 to help with the company website.

"He just floated around," he said.

Mr. Marquez purchased the two rifles several years ago. It was around the time that Syed Rizwan Farook, who together with his wife Tashfeen Malik slaughtered 14 people at the Inland Regional Center, seems to have been considering carrying out a terrorist attack in the US, reported the Los Angeles Times.

It’s possible that he and Mr. Farook had planned an attack together in 2012, but abandoned it, a federal law enforcement source told Reuters.

Marquez, who has worked at a number of low-paying jobs while living with his mother and step-father in his suburban childhood home in Riverside, Calif. converted to Islam around 2008, as Farook, his long-time friend and for a while his neighbor, was becoming more devoted to the faith.

It is not yet clear why or how Marquez converted.

He began attending Friday prayers at a Corona mosque, but didn’t seem committed to Islam, said Azmi Hasan, manager at the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco, showing up for prayers sporadically, sometimes missing them for months, reports Reuters.

Mr. Hasan told Reuters that Marquez thought Islam wasn’t a good fit for him, and was thinking about becoming a Buddhist.

Around the time that the two friends were reportedly planning an attack, in 2012, Marquez and Farook seemed to become estranged. Though Marquez stayed connected with the family by marrying the sister last year of Farook's brother’s wife, according to country records obtained by the LA Times.

The sisters were from Russia, each coming to the US separately on J-1 visas that allow foreigners to come for work-study cultural exchange programs.

According to his friend, 23-year-old Viviana Ramirez, Marquez didn’t talk about his personal life much, but he did tell her he was “not clicking” with his new wife. Otherwise, he talked mostly about his ambitions to enlist in the US Navy.

She told the LA Times that he sometimes posted melancholy messages on Facebook, though otherwise his page was peppered with joyful pictures.

Ms. Ramirez doubts her friend would have helped Farook and Malik if he had known what they were going to do with the weapons.

"He’s never done anything mean,” she told the LA Times. “A lot of newspapers call me and want me to talk bad about him," she said. "He is a really good person.”

Hours after the attacks, Marquez checked himself into a mental health facility and posted this message on Facebook: "I'm. Very sorry guys (sic). It was a pleasure."

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.