Ex-neighbor of San Bernardino shooters arrested after allegedly purchasing guns used in shooting

NBC has confirmed that this is a photo of Enrique Marquez, the man who bought the two semiautomatic rifles used in the San Bernardino shooting.

(NBC News)–Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend and former neighbor of San Bernardino, California, gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, was charged Thursday with buying the rifles used in the Dec. 2 assault and plotting other terrorist attacks with Farook in 2011 and 2012.

Investigators said Marquez, 24, bought the .223-caliber DPMS model AR-15 and the Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault-style rifles used in the shootings at the Inland Resource Center, which killed 14 people.

He was charged in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California, with conspiring with Farook to provide material support — including himself, a firearm and explosives — for crimes of terrorism; making a false statement in connection with the acquisition of firearms; and immigration fraud for what authorities said was his sham marriage to a distant relative of Farook’s.

If he’s convicted, Marquez could face 15 years in federal prison on the terrorism charge and 10 years each on the two other charges. He made his initial court appearance later Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker stressed that there was, as yet, no evidence that Marquez took part in or knew about the resource center attack. But she said his purchase of the firearms and his failure to warn authorities about Farook’s intention to carry out some sort of mass casualty attack “had fatal consequences.”

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. California Department of Motor Vehicles and FBI
Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. California Department of Motor Vehicles and FBI

In an affidavit accompanying the charges, the FBI said Marquez distanced himself from Farook after their initial round of plotting, and it shows that in a 911 call the day after the Dec. 2 shootings, he was horrified by the carnage.

Marquez told a 911 operator that he was considering suicide because “my neighbor — he did the San Bernardino shooting. … He was the shooter. … The [expletive] [expletive] used my gun in the shooting.”

Marquez said he’d given the guns to his neighbor only for safe-keeping, lamenting: “Oh my god. … Why did he have to do it?”

Asked to identify the man, Marquez replied: “It’s Syed Farook.”

Authorities had previously told NBC News that Marquez bought the rifles and gave them to Farook. The FBI affidavit disclosed that he is also believed to have bought explosive material used to build a pipe bomb found at the scene.

In late 2011, according to the affidavit, Marquez and Farook started planning to carry out terrorist acts designed to maximize casualties — including plans to attack the library or the cafeteria at Riverside Community College, where both men had been students. They planned to throw pipe bombs from the second floor and then shoot people as they fled, the FBI alleged.

According to the affidavit, Marquez and Farook also planned to attack a section of State Route 91 during the afternoon rush hour — because there are no exits, which would trap more potential victims. Farook was then to walk down the roadway shooting into vehicles, the FBI said; Marquez was to be the lookout and shoot any first responders.

In late 2011 and 2012, Marquez bought two firearms for about $750 each for Farook and portrayed himself as the real buyer, the FBI said. According to the affidavit, Marquez told investigators he agreed to the ruse because “his appearance was Caucasian, while Farook looked Middle Eastern.”

Officials previously told NBC News that Marquez bought the rifles as a favor so Farook wouldn’t have to go through a background check or be on record as the buyer.

In the first half of 2012, Marquez and Farook continued plotting terrorist attacks, but later in the year, Marquez backed away for a variety of reasons, including the announcement of arrests in unrelated terrorism cases in November 2012, according to the affidavit.

The third charge — the sham marriage — is related to Marquez’s wedding to a member of Farook’s extended family so she could obtain legal U.S. status, prosecutors said. In return, she paid Marquez $200 month, according to the charges.

Marquez moved to Riverside around 2005, becoming next-door neighbors with Farook. Investigators said Farook introduced Marquez to Islam, and Marquez converted in 2007.

Farook later introduced Marquez to radical Islamic ideology, including the extremist views of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born al Qaeda recruiter who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2011, according to the affidavit. In August 2011, Farook informed Marquez of his interest in joining the Yemen affiliate of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, it said.

Marquez checked himself into a mental hospital for a few days after the shootings this month. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, who were killed in a shootout with authorities a few hours after the massacre, were quietly buried Tuesday in Southern California.

 

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