In a bizarre move that baffled media commentators and confounded police experts, reporters rummaged through the personal belongings of the San Bernardino shooters on live television Friday after gaining access to the California home the couple rented.
Reporters from cable news networks and local newspapers sorted through belongings left behind, including photos, credit cards and personal documents after the landlord who owned the home allowed access. Items including toys and a crib for the couple’s 6-month-old baby could be seen inside the home.
Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed during a firefight with police as they attempted to evade officers hours after they opened fire at a holiday party for the government agency that employed Farook. The couple killed 14 people and injured another 21 during Wednesday’s deadly shooting spree.
It was unclear whether the dozens of people who flooded the couples’ home should have been allowed such unfettered access to a location where just two days before police recovered more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, bomb making devices and 12 pipe bombs.
A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office said she was not aware of any efforts to get reporters out of the Redlands, California, home.
“We’ve finished our search at that locations,” said FBI spokeswoman Lourdes Arocho, adding that officials were expected to address the issue at a press conference later Friday.
The strange event was also sure to stir up scrutiny of media ethics, as reporters broadcast images of documents found inside the home including a driver’s license, Social Security card of individuals who were not believed to be either of the deceased suspects. Photos of unidentified children at a birthday party and involved in other day to day activities were also shown on several news broadcasts.
Investigators were still working to determine what motivated Farook and Malik to commit the massacre, but officials were edging closer to the conclusion that the Muslim couple was radicalized by Islamist extremists either in the U.S. or during trips to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
During a press conference Friday shortly after cable networks began to broadcast images from inside the home, White House press secretary Josh Earnest referred questions on the matter to the FBI.
“What the White House is focused on is making sure that our investigators get to the bottom of what exactly transpired,” Mr. Earnest said.