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Buyer of guns used in California massacre charged with terrorism count

The man who bought the assault rifles used by his friend in the San Bernardino massacre was charged Thursday with terrorism-related counts for plotting an earlier attack that was aborted.

world Updated: Dec 18, 2015 12:52 IST
San Bernardino shooting,California mass shooting,Syed Rizwan Farook
Enrique Marquez (C), 24, is shown in this courtroom sketch as he appears with legal representatives during a hearing in federal court in Riverside, California, December 17, 2015.(REUTERS)

The man who bought the assault rifles used by his friend in the San Bernardino massacre was charged Thursday with terrorism-related counts for plotting an earlier attack that was aborted.

Enrique Marquez Jr., 24, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. The charges allege he plotted with gunman Syed Rizwan Farook to launch attacks in 2011 and 2012 at a community college and a congested freeway at rush hour, but they never carried out their plans.

Marquez also was charged with illegally purchasing two assault rifles that Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, used to kill 14 people at a holiday meeting of Farook’s health department co-workers on Dec. 2.

The shooters died hours later using those same firearms in a gun battle with police.

Marquez was working at a Riverside bar at the time of the shooting and is not alleged to have had a role in the attack, but prosecutors said he was linked to the killings by the guns and bomb-making materials he bought that the couple planned to detonate.

“His prior purchase of the firearms and ongoing failure to warn authorities about Farook’s intent to commit mass murder had fatal consequences,” US Attorney Eileen Decker said.

A criminal complaint filed in US District Court charges Marquez with three counts that could bring a maximum of 35 years in federal prison.

A lengthy affidavit outlines evidence against Marquez, including statements he gave investigators over 11 days after he waived his rights to remain silent and be represented by a lawyer.

He called police hours after the attack to say his neighbor had used his gun in the shooting, using an expletive to describe Farook.

Marquez then showed up agitated at a hospital emergency room, saying he had downed nine beers and was “involved” in the shooting. He was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward.

Marquez lived next door to Farook, 28, who introduced him to Islam 10 years ago. Marquez told authorities he converted to Islam around age 16 and four years later was spending most of his time at Farook’s home, reading, listening to and watching “radical Islamic content” that included al-Qaida instructions on how to make bombs.

Four years ago, Marquez said, he and Farook planned to toss pipe bombs into the cafeteria at the community college they attended and then shoot people as they fled.

He said they also planned to toss pipe bombs on a busy section of freeway that has no exits, bringing traffic to a halt and then picking off the occupants. Marquez would shoot from a nearby hillside, targeting police, as Farook fired at drivers from the road.

As part of the plan, Marquez bought two assault rifles — in November 2011 and February 2012. He said he agreed to buy them because “Farook looked Middle Eastern.”

Authorities previously said Marquez had legally purchased the guns Farook and Malik used. But the charges allege that by buying the guns for someone else, Marquez made false statements on the background check paperwork.

The FBI has said Farook and Malik were radicalized before they met online in 2013, but the court documents detail how much earlier Farook had turned down that path and plotted violence.

Marquez said he and Malik aborted their plans after authorities interrupted a terror plot in the area in November 2012 that involved four men who wanted to join al-Qaida to fight US forces overseas.

He said they didn’t see much of each other after that unraveled, though he deepened his connection with the Farook family, which also led to an immigration fraud charge against him.

Both men were witnesses at the wedding of Farook’s brother, Raheel, to a Russian woman in 2011, according to marriage records.

Last year, Marquez married the sister of Raheel Farook’s wife. Prosecutors said it was a sham marriage to help the Russian woman obtain US residency. According to the affidavit accompanying the charges, Marquez was paid $200 per month for the union and said his own mother and brother didn’t know about it.

About a month before the attack, Marquez made a reference to the marriage and living “multiple lives” in a chat with a fellow Facebook user that foreshadowed the trouble he was facing before any bullets started flying.

“Involved in terrorist plots, drugs, anti-social behavior, marriage, might go to prison for fraud, etc,” according to the affidavit by FBI agent Joel Anderson.

Right after the shooting, Marquez called his mother to say he was safe but that he wouldn’t be coming home, neighbor Lorena Aguirre said.

The next day, federal agents raided his mother’s house in Riverside, a city near San Bernardino that is about 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

First Published: Dec 18, 2015 12:25 IST