REDLANDS (California) • 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 United States 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-storey 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 photographs for clues to what drove the couple to commit mass murder.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - which is probing 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 was allowed to disturb the site.
AFP's photographer Robyn Beck, among those permitted to enter, said it was mayhem inside. She said: "People were touching everything, some reporters were removing pictures out of photo albums and photographing them."
Television crews displayed drivers' licences 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 Quran, and a children's guide to Islamic manners. In the kitchen, dirty dishes littered the sink area. A waste-paper basket was filled with shredded documents, apparently discarded by investigators.
Journalists filed live broadcasts standing next to the baby's crib, which brimmed with stuffed animals and colourful quilts - drawing scathing commentary from some in the 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.
MSNBC acknowledged regretting some of its live shots from inside the home. "We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review," the network said.
Pressed to explain why the media was 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," Mr David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, told reporters. "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 news organisation had paid the landlord US$1,000 (S$1,390)for access to the premises.
Both Syed Farook and his wife were killed last Wednesday in a wild firefight with police, hours after the carnage at an office party attended by his co-workers in nearby San Bernardino. Relatives have not been able to explain how the young couple with an infant girl could have staged the country's deadliest mass shooting since the Newtown school massacre in 2012.