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California shooting: One brother a decorated navy man, the other a mass shooter

DEAD: Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Malik as they were going through Customs at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on July 27 last year. His older brother, who received two medals in the navy, is said to be very upset with him and broken with grief.


    Dec 09, 2015

    California shooting: One brother a decorated navy man, the other a mass shooter


    ONE brother liked to party and chase girls. After high school, moved by what he saw as his patriotic duty, he enlisted in the navy and received two medals recognising his contributions to "the global war on terror".

    The other was deeply religious and became increasingly intolerant, ultimately nursing a growing hatred that led him, along with his wife, to open fire at a San Bernardino holiday party last week, in what law enforcement officials have termed a terrorist attack.

    Syed Raheel Farook and his younger brother Syed Rizwan Farook grew up in the same house, attended the same high school two years apart and, as teenagers, often socialised in the same groups.

    But as they grew older, their paths diverged. Rizwan is now dead, gunned down by police in Southern California after joining with his wife Tashfeen Malik in killing 14 people and injuring 21. Raheel is alive and left to wonder what went wrong.

    The contrasting lives of the Farook brothers - described by friends, neighbours and former classmates who knew them both - is a disturbing tale, in part because there are so few clues to why they turned out so differently.

    The family, including Raheel, declined repeated requests through their lawyers for comment for this story.

    But those who knew the brothers say that by high school, their differences were apparent and growing.

    "Most people here go to mosque to please their parents," said Shakib Ahmed, who attended mosque with the Farooks.

    Raheel, the older brother, was that kind of kid, he said. He went to Friday prayers but he also liked to drink and had a girlfriend in high school who wasn't Muslim.

    Rizwan was quieter and more serious - and far more religious. Only with his older brother, friends said, did they see Rizwan lose his temper.

    "He was nice to everyone else, but he was kind of the dominating type. He would yell at his brother," Ahmed said.

    Soon after graduating from high school in 2003, with the United States invasion of Iraq just months old, Raheel joined up and went off to boot camp in Illinois, according to naval records.

    In 2004, he was assigned to serve on the USS Enterprise as an information system technician.

    Back home, Rizwan, a bright boy, finished high school a year early according to school records.

    In the years that followed, friends and neighbours say, he quit wearing jeans and polo shirts and donned robes.

    "I noticed a change with the clothes and the beard," said Ahmed.

    At home, there was increasing turmoil. In 2006, the boys' mother, Rafia Farook, filed for divorce from her husband Syed after more than 24 years of marriage, according to court documents.

    'When Rizwan joined the dating site in 2013, his profile described how he spent much of his free time "memorising the Quran and learning more about the religion".

    He was looking, he wrote, for a woman "who takes her religion very seriously and is always trying to improve her religion and encouraging others to do the same".

    Some of those who knew the Farooks have thought deeply about the brothers and their differences in recent days. But many of the things they come up with could apply to any siblings.

    "Raheel was just a normal... guy," said Usmaan Arshad, who attended La Sierra High School with the brothers. "No one talked to Rizwan."

    Rose Aguirre, a neighbour of the family for years, said the difference between the Farook sons had seemed to her to boil down to the fact that Raheel was "more personable, more Americanised" than his brother.

    But those characterisations worked only before last week, when it became apparent that the differences went far deeper.

    Attorney David Chesley told CNN on Monday that Raheel "is very upset with his brother".

    "He's totally depressed and broken with grief."