Supplier of firearms used in 2015 San Bernardino terror attack receives 20-year sentence

Christopher D. Grigg, chief of the National Security Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California, speaks at a press conference outside the Federal Courthouse in Riverside following Enrique Marquez Jr.’s sentencing Oct. 23. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)
By Erik Galicia

The former Riverside City College student who supplied weapons used to kill 14 people in the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Oct. 23.

Enrique Marquez Jr., 28, attended RCC between 2009 and 2011. He pleaded guilty in February 2017 to conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists.

“The defendant was an active member of a conspiracy that planned to inflict death and destruction on innocent people,” Tracy Wilkison, first assistant U.S. Attorney, said in a press release. “By his own admissions, this defendant collaborated with and purchased weapons for a man he definitively knew held radical and anti-American beliefs – and who wanted to kill innocent people.”

It was found Marquez provided two assault rifles to Syen Rizwan Farook several years before the 2015 attack. In his plea agreement in 2017, Marquez admitted to conspiring with Farook in 2011 and 2012 to attack the RCC Library or Cafeteria and the 91 Freeway during traffic.

Prosecutors argued Marquez also researched bomb-making methods, obtained explosive materials and even visited the sites of the planned attacks to coordinate strategies.

He eventually abandoned those plans, but the firearms he provided would be used by Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik to kill 14 people and injure 22 others at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015. The married couple was killed during a shootout with police that day.

Marquez contacted law enforcement the day after the attack and informed them the firearm Farook used belonged to him. He confessed to numerous crimes during the 10 days of questioning that followed.

Kristi K. Johnson, FBI Los Angeles Field Office assistant director, argued that although he did not go through with his planned participation in the attacks, Marquez knew Farook’s intentions and had ample opportunity to alert law enforcement before the mass shooting.

“He could’ve intervened … and given us the information to have thwarted the attack,” Johnson said outside the Federal Courthouse in Riverside.

According to the Desert Sun, John Aquilina, Marquez’s attorney, argued the defendant distanced himself from Farook after backing out of the previously planned attacks and had no knowledge of what was coming.

But prosecutor Christopher D. Grigg, chief of the National Security Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California, said the investigation proved otherwise.

“To say he was completely cut off is not accurate,” he said outside the courthouse. “Even the judge noted and the defense lawyer admitted that he had contact with Farook as late as October 2015.”

Grigg added that although investigators do not know the full extent of Marquez’s and Farook’s relationship, the defendant knew what was going on.

Marquez’s 20-year sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, came after a years-long investigation by the Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force, which included participants from 12 different law enforcement agencies. 

The defendant attempted to withdraw his guilty plea in 2019 after psychiatrists concluded Marquez suffered from several mental disorders. Bernal rejected the attempt in June.

The investigation also implicated four of Farook’s family members, including his mother Rafia Sultana Shareef, 67, of Corona.

Shareef, who admitted to shredding a map Farook made for the attack, pleaded guilty to attempting to impede a federal criminal investigation in March. She will be sentenced Nov. 6.

According to Grigg, the delay in sentencing Shareef is a result of the extent of the investigation, which identified and reconstructed the shredded material.

Grigg also said he does not know how much further the investigation will proceed, but that investigators remain committed to finding answers.