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In surreal scene, reporters swarm Redlands home rented by shooters

In the smaller of the two bedrooms, a white crib was piled with baby blankets and toys. Stuffed animals filled a laundry basket. A white bear peeked from the bottom.

On a desk nearby, loose change was scattered next to a student ID card from a local university. And in the closet, dozens of plastic hangers hung with brightly colored tags marking the baby clothes sizes: 3 months, 6 months, 9 months.

In the bathroom, a pink baby bath rested in the tub. A small heart-shaped plaque on the wall read, “May the joy you bring to so many others with your gentle and caring ways, be returned to you with blessings every day.”

In the middle of the living room were two small black tables. On one was a four-page list that included these items: 13 boxes of 50 rounds (22 caliber). 1 bag of 1000 rounds (.223 caliber). budsgunshop.com invoice. Christmas lights.

The FBI made an accounting of all that it had seized from the townhouse of Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, who carried out Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.

The couple killed 14 people and wounded 21 others when they opened fire with semiautomatic rifles on a group of Farook’s work colleagues from the San Bernardino County Health Department. The pair escaped before police arrived, but were killed hours later in a gun battle with officers.

In a surreal scene Friday morning, Doyle Miller, the 81-year-old owner of the modest rental property in Redlands, opened the killers’ private lives to the eager eyes of dozens of journalists camped outside.

Follow live coverage of the San Bernardino shooting >>

Miller arrived at the Center Street address planning to photograph any damage that had been done during the search. After he pried off a heavy plywood board that had been used to seal the front door, Miller appeared to tell one journalist that he could enter.

With that, the whole crowd rushed in and up the stairs.

Photographers and camera operators jostled for position as several reporters rummaged through photographs, personal documents, identification cards and Islamic books strewn on a bed.

CNN and MSNBC broadcast the scene live.

“I was the first person to walk into this room and saw how it was before everyone started touching it,” a CNN reporter told viewers as the camera swept across the cluttered bed. She then walked across the bedroom to point out a large hole that investigators had broken in the ceiling to inspect the crawl space.

Watching from CNN’s studio, host Anderson Cooper said to the reporter: “This is kind of bizarre. This whole thing. I just want to be clear: The police have cleared this…. Is that correct?”

A MSNBC reporter, meanwhile, showed on live television a driver’s license belonging to Farook’s mother, who authorities do not believe was involved in the killings.

Soon, the dozens of reporters were joined by curious neighbors. One woman brought her dog.

A Los Angeles Times reporter who was among those who entered the home confirmed with Miller that he had allowed the journalists to enter.

“Yeah, I gave permission to open it up,” he said.

FBI officials later said they had completed their work at the townhouse and relinquished control of it.

Media critics were sharply critical of the decision to report on the apartment, questioning the journalistic value in doing so. Broadcasting live was particularly egregious, they said, because it gave reporters no time to assess what they were showing viewers.

“Your job, your ethical duty, is to get information to your audience. The key has to be whether it is meaningful and relevant,” said Kelly McBride, an ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute.

When reporters first entered, they saw that the cupboard doors in a downstairs bathroom and the kitchen had been thrown open. In the main living room, the sliding glass door was also boarded up; shattered glass and broken blinds lay on the green carpet.

On one of the black tables, a list was written in block letters on lined paper. Union Bank receipt. Audiocassettes. iPhone in green case. 1 bag 97 loose rounds (9mm).

Authorities said that along with the guns and ammunition, they found bomb-making materials and 12 pipe-bomb devices in the garage.

Miller said he would not open the garage. There were too many reporters around.

kate.mather@latimes.com

Twitter: @katemather

joel.rubin@latimes.com

Twitter: @joelrubin

For more Southern California crime news, follow @katemather.

ALSO

San Bernardino shooting victims: Who they were

Shooters planned San Bernardino massacre alone, FBI says

Pakistani authorities probe shooter Tashfeen Malik's possible ties to militants

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

7:19 p.m.: This post has been updated with criticism of the media's decision to report on the apartment.

2:45 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a statement from David Bowdich of the FBI.

The first version of this post was published at 2:10 p.m. 

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