By Pete Williams, Hannah Rappleye, Richard Esposito, Andrew Blankstein and Robert Windrem
San Bernardino terror couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik spent at least a year preparing for their terror attack, NBC News has learned, practicing at a local gun range and making financial plans for their family after their deaths.
And the husband may have discussed an attack as many as three years ago, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
Two sources said Farook and Malik had practiced their shooting skills at a Riverside, California-area gun range for a year or more before last Wednesday’s attack on a holiday office party. They killed 14 people and wounded 21 more with firearms at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
Counterterrorism officials also told NBC News that Farook and Malik were making preparations for some time to “take care of both grandma and the baby.” The couple lived in a Redlands, California residence with their 6-month-old daughter and Farook’s 62-year-old mother, Rafia Farook. They left their daughter with Rafia Farook on the morning of the attack.
Investigators are examining a $28,500 deposit made to Farook’s bank account in the weeks before the Dec. 2 rampage.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said that he didn’t have details on the transfer, but that it “would be consistent with them making preparations for grandma and the kid.”
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“They had purposely thought through that problem,” said the official. “There were other indications of preparations.”
Reuters reported that the loan to Farook was made by the online lender Prosper. In a statement, Prosper said that the company is "prohibited by law from disclosing any non-public, personally identifiable information regarding any loan originated through our platform."
"All loans originated through the Prosper platform are subject to all identity verification and screening procedures required by law, including U.S. anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws," the spokesperson said. "Like all Americans, Prosper is shocked and saddened by recent events in San Bernardino."
And a senior law enforcement official told NBC News Tuesday that FBI investigators have been told that Farook discussed staging an attack in California as early as 2012.
The official said investigators don’t yet know what to make of the claim, although they say it may bolster their growing suspicion that Farook was radicalized long before he returned from Saudi Arabia last year with his wife.
That man, Enrique Marquez — who NBC News has learned is an in-law of Farook — had converted to Islam about three or four years ago, according to the son of the imam at the Islamic Center of Riverside.
Marquez, along with Farook and Malik, attended the mosque, officials have said. In 2014, records show, Marquez married a woman named Mariya Chernykh — the sister of Tatiana Farook, who is married to Syed Rizwan Farook's brother, Syed Raheel Farook.
Both Tatiana and Syed Raheel Farook were witnesses at the ceremony, according to public records.
Enrique Marquez and Mariya Chernykh also listed their home address as the same one belonging to Syed Raheel Farook and his father.
Muhammed Kuko, the son of the imam at the Islamic Center of Riverside, told NBC News that Marquez went to Friday prayers there in addition to working at its bookstore.
He said he heard Marquez was a gun hobbyist, and he came across as mild-mannered, smiling and helpful — and Kuko never heard him express any extreme or conservative views. He said he would be shocked if Marquez was knowingly an accomplice to the massacre.
Kuko added that Farook was also reserved and mild-mannered, and sometimes liked to play on the mosque's basketball court.
Marquez has not been named as suspect in the case, and investigators say he has been cooperative. Law enforcement sources said he bought the two semiautomatic rifles used in last week's attack in 2011 and 2012.
All four guns were purchased legally, officials have said.
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.
Rappleye is a reporter with the Investigative Unit at NBC News, covering immigration, criminal justice and human rights issues.
Richard Esposito is the senior executive producer of the NBC News Investigative Unit, and supervises investigative correspondents, producers, and reporters across all broadcasts and platforms of the NBCUniversal News Group.
Esposito, who began as a copy boy at the New York Daily News in 1977, has more than 25 years of newspaper and television experience. He has overseen investigations and run the metropolitan news operations at two of the largest newspapers in America, the New York Daily News and Newsday, and was most recently senior investigative reporter for ABC News.
He has shared in Peabody and Pulitzer awards, and has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer. Honors include the 2012 Murrow Award for his work in reporting the death of Osama bin Laden, a 2005 Polk Award for his investigation into the CIA’s network of secret prisons and harsh interrogation techniques, a 2006 Emmy Award and a 1990 Sigma Delta Chi award, among many other awards.
Esposito is the co-author of the books “Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation’s Most Exclusive Police Unit,” and “Dead on Delivery: Inside the Drug Wars.”
Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western United States, specializing in crime, courts and homeland security.
Robert Windrem is an investigative reporter/producer with NBC News, specializing in international security.