Enrique Marquez Jr., 25, of Riverside, Calif., is accused of purchasing the assault rifles used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, and has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges.
Benjamin Gottlieb of member station KCRW tells our Newscast unit:
In his plea, Marquez admits that his friend, Syed Rizwan Farook, paid him for the assault rifles used to kill 14 people and injure 22 others in December of 2015. That’s when Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire at a holiday party of Farook’s co-workers at the Inland Regional Center.
Marquez also admits he conspired with Farook in 2011 and 2012 to attack Riverside City College (RCC) — as well as commuter traffic on a major freeway in Southern California. Those plans never materialized.
U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said, “While his earlier plans to attack a school and a freeway were not executed, the planning clearly laid the foundation for the 2015 attack on the Inland Regional Center.”
Prosecutors say there is no evidence that Marquez participated in the San Bernardino attack or had advance knowledge about it.
He did acknowledge that he was a “straw buyer” when he purchased two high-powered rifles used in the San Bernardino attack.
According to a Justice Department statement:
“Straw purchasers are criminals who are the beginning of the chain of violence in our country,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden. “It is purchases like Marquez’s that led to the terror on that tragic day in San Bernardino. The crime goes beyond making a false statement on a government form. It puts guns in the hands of criminals who will victimize the community. In this case, the straw purchase is as reprehensible as the attack.”
Mandy Pifer, whose boyfriend Shannon Johnson was killed in the terror attack, told The Associated Press that Marquez’s plea agreement brought mixed emotions:
“It’s a hell of a day to come out, Valentine’s Day,” the 42-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “I’m relieved that it won’t be a long trial. If it’ll be finished sooner, I’m all for it.”
She said she planned to speak at Marquez’s sentencing about the impact her boyfriend’s killing has had on her. In his last moments, Johnson huddled with a colleague under a table, shielding her from the bullets.
“It is what it is,” she said. “Nothing’s going to bring him back.”
Marquez is expected to formally enter his guilty pleas Thursday morning.
He has been in custody since he was ordered detained at his initial court appearance in this case on Dec. 17, 2015.
Marquez faces up to 25 years in federal prison.