San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook reportedly had multiple photos of a local high school on his cellphone, and amid authorities’ suggestions that the killer and his Jihadi bride possibly planned additional carnage, school officials feel they may have dodged a bullet.
“Absolutely. We are relieved,” Rialto Unified School District spokesperson Syeda Jafri told FoxNews.com. “At first we were very disturbed that something so horrific occurred so close to home. But we were relieved that it did not affect – physically – our staff and students.”
The FBI found several exterior photos of Rialto’s Carter High School, which has 2500 students, on Farook’s cellphone, the San Bernardino Sun reported Wednesday, citing sources. That piqued investigators’ suspicions enough to prompt a search of Carter and several other area schools previously visited by Farook, a county health inspector.
"Did they have other plans? Either for that day, or earlier?”
- James Comey, FBI director
“They spoke with various staff members and did their due diligence,” said Jafri, who added that Carter was cleared by authorities, though the school is keeping its security on “high alert.”
“Social media and technology has been so used and misused. We can’t check what’s on every worker’s cellphone.”
And what was reportedly on Farook’s cellphone, one experienced public health official said, was very unusual.
“Our inspectors do typically take photos in the food-servicing environment, but it’s very unusual for any of our inspectors to take exterior photos,” Susan Klein-Rothschild told FoxNews.com. Klein-Rothschild is a nine-year veteran of the Santa Barbara Public Health Department, where she serves as Deputy Director.
“We do not, in our county, have that experience,” she said. “Typically you only take photos if there are violations. I asked around to our director and supervisor and both gave me the same response – and they have years and years of experience.”
Farook, 28, had worked as an environmental health services inspector for the Public Health Department for five years at the time of the attack. He had reviewed 10 schools alone in the San Bernardino City Unified School District during a 12-day span in October and November 2015, according to the Sun. Authorities sent in bomb-detecting dogs to at least one of those schools – Arroyo Valley High School – on Dec. 3.
“Nothing unusual was found, and the site was deemed safe,” SBCUSD spokesperson Linda Bardere told the Sun.
Jafri said Farook checked schools in her district twice a year and RUSD had no prior indication their inspector had an inclination toward terror.
“It’s disturbing,” she said. “It could have happened anywhere and it happened in San Bernardino.”
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 21others during a holiday party on Dec. 2. But authorities have indicated that location wasn’t Farook’s first choice. Farook may have contemplated an attack as far back as 2011 or 2012, a U.S. government source told Reuters on Wednesday.
And the holiday shooting may not have been planned to be the deadly duo’s final act – but the pair was killed later that day during a gun battle with police.
“And we’re working very, very hard to understand, did they have other plans? Either for that day, or earlier?” FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “And that work continues.”
FBI Agent David Bowdich hinted Friday that more attacks were “certainly a possibility” based on the size of the arsenal kept by Farook and Malik.
Authorities haven’t yet revealed if Farook’s peculiar photos meant Carter High School was “a possibility.”
Said Jafri: “You can imagine how the district feels about this.”