As people struggled to comprehend the horror on Wednesday of yet another mass shooting in the U.S., one detail stood out: one of the suspects was a woman. Women are suspects in only 6 percent of mass killings, USA Today reports. The average age of a female mass killing suspect is 33, while in males it is 31.
On Wednesday, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik was killed by law enforcement officers, along with a male companion, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, after the pair allegedly burst into a meeting room at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and opened fire, killing at least 14 people before fleeing. At least 17 others were wounding in the attack. Farook had been attending at an office holiday party — he worked for the last five years as a health inspector for the county — at the center just prior to the shooting. The rampage in San Bernardino was the deadliest mass shooting since 20 children and six teachers were killed in a 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the attackers were dressed in military-style garb and were armed with assault rifles and handguns. After a tip-off, they were confronted at a home before fleeing in an SUV and engaging in a gunfight with police. Officials said investigators also found three explosive devices rigged to a remote controlled car, that failed to detonate.
Multiple reports indicated the pair had been married for two years and had a 6-month-old daughter together. According to The Los Angeles Times, a spokesperson for Farook’s family said the couple had dropped of their infant daughter with Farook’s mother and told her they were on there way to a doctor’s appointment shortly before the rampage took place. One of Farook’s colleagues, Patrick Baccari, told The L.A. Times the pair met online and Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet Malik.
News that a woman was one of the suspects startled many on social media, some of whom assumed that the attackers were men. As Vocativ notes, actress and singer Rose McGowan posted a message on Twitter saying, “I’m sick of men with guns killing us.” The tweet underscored how rare it is for a woman to be involved in a mass shooting — and it drew criticisms of sexism.
Other mass killings in recent years that involved a woman include a shooting spree in Las Vegas in 2014, by Amanda Miller and her husband Jerad, in which five people died (including the couple) and the 2006 murders by Jennifer San Marco of a former neighbor as well as six of her former colleagues at a postal facility in Goleta, California. She also took her own life at the scene.