U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Friday privately met with the families of 14 people who were killed in the San Bernardino, California, shooting earlier this month. Obama stopped in California while on his way to Hawaii for his annual holiday getaway for Christmas.
After meeting the victims' families, Obama said that he was moved by their emphasis on tolerance and described them as representatives of the "strength, unity and love” seen across the U.S., Reuters reported.
American-born Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, of Pakistan, opened fire at the Inland Regional Center killing 14 people and injuring over 20 others on Dec. 2.
"Obviously, those families are going through a difficult time, not just because they've lost loved ones, but obviously at the holiday season I think that loss is even more acute," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, according to the Associated Press (AP). "The president felt before he could begin his holiday that it was important for him to spend some time with these Americans who are mourning."
The FBI, which is investigating the case as an act of terrorism, is working to determine the motive behind the attack. Farook and Malik had pledged allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, on Facebook, moments before the shooting, but authorities have found no evidence that the couple was directly linked to any overseas terrorist group.
Obama, who plans to spend a two-week vacation in Hawaii with his wife and two daughters, made the visit amid California Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration Friday of a state of emergency in San Bernardino County.
Brown reportedly said that the county is left with few health inspectors after the attack as those killed and wounded were largely employees of its environmental health department. As part of the declaration, Brown also ordered the suspension of all fees normally charged when residents request a death certificate or seek to bury someone, Reuters reported.
Previous reports said that 21 people were injured in the incident, but in his declaration, Brown said that the number was 26.