San Bernardino shooting suspect endured turbulent home life, according to court documents

Years before he was associated with the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, Syed Rizwan Farook endured a turbulent home life, according to court records.

In 2006 divorce filings, his mother detailed a violent marital history in which her children often had to intervene. 

Rafia Farook said her husband of 24 years was physically and verbally abusive and was “negligent and an alcoholic,” according to documents filed in Riverside County Superior Court. Her husband, she said, forced her and three of her children to move out. They moved into an Irvine residence.

Later, in multiple requests for domestic-violence protection, Rafia Farook detailed the maltreatment she said she encountered and that her children witnessed: Her husband had once drunkenly dropped a TV on her. Another time, he pushed her toward a car. After a drunken slumber, he shouted expletives and threw dishes in the kitchen.

“Inside the house he tried to hit me. My daughter came in between to save me,” she said about one incident. Police were not called to the home, she said.

“He is always mad,” she said. “Screaming on me, shouting at my kids for no reason. … My son came in between to save me.”

It was unclear if she was referring to Syed Rizwan Farook, who at the time was 19 and living with her, according to documents.

“I have been the sole caregiver of the children of this marriage,” she wrote.

Rafia Farook, who said at the time she worked 24 hours a week as a revenue support clerk for $16 an hour at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center, sought custody of the couple’s teenage daughter, Eba. She proposed that Syed Rizwan Farook, the younger of her two sons, supervise future visits between her husband and daughter.

Rafia Farook also described a February 2008 dispute in which police were called to the home.

Her husband and one of their sons fought, and her husband threatened to kill himself, she said. She called her husband’s brother in Chicago, who notified local authorities. They alerted authorities in Riverside. Police arrived at the home about 5 a.m. on an unspecified date.

Her husband was placed in a county hospital for a 72-hour observation period, she said.

Rafia Farook said her husband “threatens to kill himself on a daily basis.”

Eventually, a Riverside police officer served her husband, who is also named Syed Farook, with a restraining order, according to court papers.

The case languished for reasons that are unclear. Neither spouse showed up to court-ordered mediation, and in April 2008, Rafia Farook successfully sought to have her divorce case dismissed.

But one month after the dismissal, Rafia Farook filed a petition for legal separation, citing irreconcilable differences. Papers show her hours with Kaiser increased to full time and she was earning about $2,900 per month. Still, it did not cover the family’s expenses, including a mortgage and car payment. Her husband, she said, had not held a steady job for “a long time."

When her husband was served with legal separation papers, he was reached at an address in Karachi, Pakistan. 

At this time, she said her sons, Syed Raheel Farook, then 23, and Syed Rizwan Farook, then 20, lived with her, along with her younger daughter. Another daughter, Saira, apparently lived elsewhere. At one point, Rafia Farook had requested in court documents that her husband require written permission to travel outside California, specifically to Pakistan, with their youngest daughter. 

In October 2008, an entry judgment was declared in favor of Rafia Farook, declaring her legally separated from her husband and giving her sole custody of her teenage daughter.

Born in Illinois, Syed Rizwan Farook was a five-year employee of the San Bernardino County public health department. His co-workers said Farook, a Muslim, had traveled to Saudi Arabia recently and returned with Tashfeen Malik, a woman he had met online. The couple had a baby and appeared to be “living the American dream,” said a colleague. The office threw them a baby shower.

Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, are suspected of killing 14 people and injuring 17 others at the Inland Regional Center, where Farook's co-workers were attending a holiday party. They were both fatally shot by authorities.

For more California news, follow me @MattHJourno

Times staff writer Corina Knoll also contributed to this report.

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