Fusion center data analysis aids San Bernardino shooting investigation

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Analysts at a Los Angeles fusion center — a group dedicated to promoting cooperation and information sharing among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the area — believe their data analysis work played a key role in the investigation into the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California, last month.

During the attack, which was carried out by a married couple and left 14 people dead, staff at the Joint Regional Intelligence Center worked to feed information gathered by local police into the center’s databases to support personnel on the ground. At a symposium held by the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute here, analysts revealed that their work helped identify the second shooter in the case — Tashfeen Malik — before police killed the attackers in a shootout.

Center Director Mark Billings, Deputy Director Maury Bas and Tactical Analysis Unit Supervisor Jane Chung detailed the center’s response to the attacks, but they declined to be quoted directly given the sensitivity of the information discussed.

The analysts said they began receiving calls from law enforcement just 15 minutes after the shooting happened, and began preparing their response.
Chung’s analytics team had a wealth of experience and policies to draw on after their experience coordinating with local agencies in the Christopher Dorner case in 2013, when a former Los Angeles police officer shot and killed four people and wounded three others. In that case, her group helped develop information about Dorner by combing through their databases for clues about his known associates and potential resources as police searched for him, and they used similar methods when searching for the San Bernardino attackers.

A tip from a witness helped police identify Syed Farook as one of the shooters, and the analysts said they were able to identify his wife, Malik, as the other perpetrator by searching through various databases and coordinating with investigators on the scene.

Those processes also helped the analysts develop timelines and maps for where the shooters were both before and after the attacks, according to the center staff.

The analysts added that similar efforts also helped them pinpoint the whereabouts of Enrique Marquez, a friend of the couple who was arrested several weeks after the shooting on federal charges for allegedly purchasing the weapons used in the attacks.

The center staff added that they continue to play a role in the investigation into the incident to this day, and stressed that these efforts wouldn’t have been successful without the relationships they cultivated with the law enforcement agencies in the region.

In such a chaotic situation, the analysts believe they were able to play a crucial role in smoothing the coordination between those local investigators and the federal personnel who joined the search for the shooters as the scope of the attack became clear.

Center staff added that the threat of so-called “homegrown extremists” has been on their radar for years now, and the lessons learned from the San Bernardino attack will help them as they continue to refine their efforts to stop attacks before they happen.

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