Advertisement
News

What We Know About the Friend of the San Bernardino Shooters Who's Facing Terrorism Charges

24-year-old Enrique Marquez Jr., a neighbor of the Muslim couple who carried out the attack that killed 14 and wounded 22, is being slapped with three terrorism charges for alleged plots in 2011 and 2012.

by Brian McManus
Dec 17 2015, 8:00pm

A sign stands in front of a mailbox at Enrique Marquez's home, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in Riverside, California. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By most accounts, Morgan's Tavern in Riverside, California, is a typical dive bar. A dingy, pirate-themed hole in the wall, the place has mixed service and offers cheap domestic beer, according to Yelp reviews. Dollar bills are stapled to its ceiling, and on Thursdays, five bucks will buy you into a singles' beer pong tournament.

24-year-old Enrique Marquez Jr., a former Walmart security guard who got fired shortly after the attacks, worked at the bar doing odd jobs until quite recently. He refreshed ice sinks, manned the door, took out the trash, mopped floors, and cleaned the restrooms, as the New York Times reported. Tavern owner Jerry Morgan hired him three years ago, and Marquez often kicked back at the spot for a few drinks on his days off, sometimes coming directly from praying at his mosque.

But when Marquez—who converted to Islam in 2007—drank, he was prone to chatter, occasionally talking about terrorism, and even speaking vaguely of sleeper cells. No one seemed to give the man and his bloviating a second thought—until the terrorist attack in nearby San Bernardino that killed 14 and injured 22 early this month. On Thursday, the feds filed three terrorism charges against Marquez, a neighbor and friend to the Muslim couple that carried out the murderous rampage at the Inland Regional Center.

"While there currently is no evidence that Mr. Marquez participated in the Dec. 2 attack or had advance knowledge of it, 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 M. Decker said in a statement. Marquez was arrested on Thursday.

The charges consist of conspiring to provide material support—including personnel, firearms and explosives—to terrorists in 2011 and 2012; making a false statement in connection with acquisition of firearms; and immigration fraud. They are the first tied to the deadliest domestic terrorist attack since September 11, 2001—one that has roiled the country and lent a dose of toxicity to the presidential campaign.

Hours after the shooting in San Bernardino on December 2, a cryptic message emerged on Marquez's Facebook page: "I'm. Very sorry sguys (sic). It was a pleasure."

Marquez has reportedly admitted to supplying the two assault rifles used by terrorist couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who were killed in a shootout with police. Marquez was friends with Farook during their teenage years, and checked himself into a Los Angeles-area psychiatric facility not long after the attack. He has since become the key lead in the FBI's investigation into the massacre, waiving his right to silence and self incrimination, and reportedly cooperating fully with authorities. He gave the feds so much information, in fact, that one point, at least, they wondered how reliable his narrative was, and feared he might be "grandstanding," as the Washington Post reported.

According to an affidavit released Thursday by the Department of Justice, Farook introduced and converted Marquez to Islam. By 2011, Marquez was a fixture at Farook's home, watching and listening to lectures and videos steeped in radicalism; said materials included Inspire Magazine, the official publication of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In August 2011, Farook told Marquez he was interested in joining AQAP in Yemen.

The two allegedly conspired on several plots they never saw through, including an attack on eastbound lanes of State Route 91 during rush hour, which would have relied on pipe bombs and assault rifles. The duo allegedly went so far as to purchase firearms, ammunition and other tactical gear, and are said to have visited local firing ranges.

Marquez indicated that he bought the assault rifles used in San Bernardino on Farook's behalf because the latter believed he wouldn't pass a background check—a federal crime that carries a stiff penalty. Officials do not believe Marquez had knowledge of the attack before they took place, however. Indeed, a day after the shooting in San Bernardino, Marquez called 911 in distress, according to the affidavit.

"The fucking asshole used my gun in the shooting," he told the operator, apparently incredulous, adding that "they can trace all the guns back to me."

In addition to being close childhood friends, as the Associated Press reported, Marquez and Farook were listed as witnesses on a marriage license when the latter's brother, Raheel, wed in 2011. A few years later, Raheel Farook and his bride Tatiana, returned the favor for Marquez, acting as witnesses in his marriage to Tatiana's Russian sister Manya Chernykh, according to Riverside County records. One of the three charges unveiled Thursday is for "defrauding immigration authorities by entering into a sham marriage with a member of Farook's family," according to a federal criminal complaint.

For their part, Marquez's family has declined many an interview request from the media since the December 2 attack, but last week, his mother Armida Chacon spoke briefly to reporters, calling her son "a good person."

Marquez made his first court appearance in Riverside on Thursday, and faces up to 35 years in prison for the three charges. On Friday, President Barack Obama is due to travel to San Bernardino to meet privately with victims' families for the first time since the tragedy.

Follow Brian McManus on Twitter.

This post has been updated.