Baby toys, a Quran: California shooters’ home thrown open to media

Journalists take photos inside the bathroom in the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Journalists take photos inside the bathroom in the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
 The California State University Fullerton student identification of Syed Farook sits on a desk.
The California State University Fullerton student identification of Syed Farook sits on a desk.PHOTO: AFP
Journalists squeeze into a child's bedroom.
Journalists squeeze into a child's bedroom.PHOTO: AFP
A television crew prepares to do a live report inside a child's bedroom.
A television crew prepares to do a live report inside a child's bedroom.PHOTO: AFP
Journalists inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Journalists inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
A view of the kitchen inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
A view of the kitchen inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
Journalists take photos of the kitchen of the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Journalists take photos of the kitchen of the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
A book and documents are seen inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
A book and documents are seen inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
 Journalists take photos inside the bathroom in the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Journalists take photos inside the bathroom in the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
Islamic books sit on a shelf.
Islamic books sit on a shelf.PHOTO: AFP
 A can of gun oil sits in a bedroom closet.
A can of gun oil sits in a bedroom closet.PHOTO: AFP
An Islamic Manners book sits in a bedroom.
An Islamic Manners book sits in a bedroom.PHOTO: AFP
A woman tries to push back dozens of members of the media that are attempting to enter the home.
A woman tries to push back dozens of members of the media that are attempting to enter the home.PHOTO: AFP
Arabic books sit in a closet inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Arabic books sit in a closet inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
A hole in the ceiling is visible in a bedroom closet.
A hole in the ceiling is visible in a bedroom closet.PHOTO: AFP
A reporter does a live shot inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
A reporter does a live shot inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
 Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
Reporters take pictures of photographs found inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Reporters take pictures of photographs found inside the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP
 A book about prayer sits on a bedside table.
A book about prayer sits on a bedside table.PHOTO: AFP
Reporters look through photographs.
Reporters look through photographs.PHOTO: AFP
 Photographs sit on the bathroom sink.
Photographs sit on the bathroom sink.PHOTO: AFP
 Reporters take pictures of photographs.
Reporters take pictures of photographs.PHOTO: AFP
A hatchet sits in a kitchen drawer.
A hatchet sits in a kitchen drawer.PHOTO: AFP
Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.
Reporters inspect the home of shooting suspect Syed Farook.PHOTO: AFP

SAN BERNARDINO, United States (AFP) - Baby toys, shredded files, a Quran, computer paraphernalia: the home of the California shooters was bizarrely – and controversially – thrown open to the media on Friday, offering a glimpse of the life of the couple behind the carnage.

Two days after US citizen Syed Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik burst into an office party in San Bernardino and shot dead 14 people, media crews were given access by the landlord to the two-story townhouse where they lived with their six-month-old daughter.

In a surreal scrum, dozens of journalists flooded into the home in Redlands, jostling for space as they rifled through children’s toys and family photos for clues to what drove the couple to commit mass murder.

 
 

The FBI – which is investigating the shooting as an “act of terrorism” – said it had turned the property back over to its owner and no longer controlled access, as experts voiced consternation that media were allowed to disturb the site.

AFP’s photographer Robyn Beck, among those permitted to enter, said it was mayhem inside.

“People were touching everything, some reporters were removing pictures out of photo albums and photographing them,” she said.

Television crews displayed drivers’ licenses and social security cards on screen, and what some speculated may be the first known photographs of the 27-year-old Malik.

There was a prayer rug, a Koran, and a children’s guide to Islamic manners.

The kitchen looked a mess, with dishes littering the sides and sink. A waste-paper basket was filled with shredded documents, apparently discarded by investigators.

Reporters put out live broadcasts standing beside the baby’s crib, brimming with stuffed animals and colourful quilts – drawing scathing commentary from some fellow media.

“Nothing says we’re journalists bravely uncovering the truth like pawing around a child’s bed,” tweeted Mary Beth Williams, a writer for Salon.com.

Some outlets, including CNN, said they decided not to broadcast close-up footage of objects that could be considered sensitive or identifiable – such as identity cards.

“I never seen anything like this,” CNN’s law enforcement analyst Paul Callan said. “I think it indicates a shocking degree of negligence and really recklessness by law enforcement authorities here.

“You have a contaminated crime scene now.” 

“This is the biggest visible screwup in history,” agreed fellow CNN analyst Jonathan Gilliam. 

“A terrorist incident just happened and the reporters are going through and looking at IDs and pictures... It is all evidentiary.” 

Among the items visible at the home were pages listing items seized by the FBI: notebooks, computer equipment, pre-paid phone cards, audio cassettes – and ammunition.

Pressed to explain why media were given unfettered access, the FBI said it no longer had control over the premises.

“We executed a search warrant on that apartment. And last night we turned that over back to the residents,” David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, told a news conference.

“Once we turn that location back over to the occupants... or once we board it up, anyone who goes in at that point, that’s got nothing to do with us.” 

MSNBC said a reporter from another press outlet had paid the landlord US$1,000 (S$1,400) for access to the premises, where investigators earlier found thousands of rounds of ammunition, a bomb-making laboratory and 12 pipe bombs.

The owner pried open the door at around 9:15 am and the rest of the media – followed by members of the public – dashed in behind, including one neighbor with her dog.

The elderly landlord, Doyle Miller, who ordered everyone out about 90 minutes later, admitted he was overwhelmed by the scrum.

He told AFP the couple were “good tenants” who paid their rent every month.

“I opened the door and I saw the damage,” he said. “It’s chaos in there.”

“I guess I don’t understand that type of person, it’s troubling,” he said. 

“They don’t have flags or pins on them, how can you tell?”

Both man and wife were killed Wednesday in a wild firefight with police hours after the carnage at an office party attended by Farook’s co-workers in nearby San Bernardino.

Relatives have been at a loss to explain how the young couple with a baby girl could have staged the country’s deadliest mass shooting since the Newtown school massacre in 2012.