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San Bernardino Suspect's Co-Worker: 'I Assumed Syed Was Our Friend'

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San Bernardino Suspect's Co-Worker: 'I Assumed Syed Was Our Friend'

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San Bernardino Suspect's Co-Worker: 'I Assumed Syed Was Our Friend'

San Bernardino Suspect's Co-Worker: 'I Assumed Syed Was Our Friend'

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NPR's Kelly McEvers talks with Patrick Baccari, who shared a cubicle with Syed Rizwan Farook, the suspect in the shooting in San Bernardino shooting, and was in the bathroom when the violence began.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Patrick Baccari is a health inspector for San Bernardino County, a coworker of Syed Farook and a survivor of yesterday's attack. When I talked to him this morning, I could see small scabs down his arms and on his face. He has tiny fragments of debris embedded below his skin - the results of bullets hitting the drywall where he was standing. He says he and other coworkers were gathered for what he describes as a general education meeting and a Christmas party.

PATRICK BACCARI: They gave us a 20-minute break. They asked for those of these certain programs to take a moment and go get your Christmas picture taken. When we went over for that, Syed wasn't there for that. A little while later, somebody said, well, where's Syed? Well, OK, he wasn't here. And then you kind of think, OK, where is he?

So we go into the next session. It's around 11 o'clock. They let us go on a break. I basically get to the restroom. As I'm pulling the paper towels from the dispenser, there's explosions. There's bullets flying through the walls. I look at myself in the mirror and see the blood. I thought somebody booby trapped the towel dispenser.

MCEVERS: And so there were - the shooting was coming from outside the bathroom but having so much impact that things were...

BACCARI: Well, you're only talking a small hallway.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

BACCARI: And you're talking thin drywall. So here I am at the paper towel dispenser pulling the things down. Like, powder puff goes off in your face. There's a big explosion. You don't necessarily know what - they're looking at me like, what did you do? I look in the mirror and see myself bloodied. As I think I'm going to exit, I see the bullet holes, and I tell everybody, get on the floor; there's bullets coming. And so we remained there, and we had no cell service.

And so when the shooting finally calmed down, I couldn't get any cell service from the restroom, so I had the guy beside me call. And he got through, and he told them we're in the restroom. And we basically had the restroom door blocked so nobody could enter. And there was three of us in the restroom.

So after they had the SWAT come, they said they're there. I'm like, OK, we're either going to live or die. We opened the door. It is them, so we exited the restroom. They channeled us across the way. The majority of people that were sitting with me were gunned down. We were toward the center of the complex in the back where Syed was.

MCEVERS: So it's because you went to the bathroom, basically?

BACCARI: That may have saved me and the other two - the four of us in the restroom. I'm a retired medic, so one of my colleagues - she'd been shot three times, so I tried to run to her aid. It broke my heart to see her on the TV, that she's walking with her arm in the sling that we made out of her sweater.

MCEVERS: You say you're a retired medic. You were in the - you served in the military.

BACCARI: The Air Force reserves.

MCEVERS: OK, so you kind of know some of this...

BACCARI: They can't prepare you for this.

MCEVERS: Right.

BACCARI: I mean, even with a weapon, you can't defend yourself laying on the ground, cowering to stay alive and survive to maybe get out and help somebody else later.

MCEVERS: When did you find out that it was Syed?

BACCARI: I heard from somebody that the police scanner kind of implicated somebody. And then when you start thinking, we didn't see him and then when they said they fled to Redlands, we know that's where he lives.

MCEVERS: Baccari worked with Syed Farook for two years. He describes him as quiet, shutoff. They had a conversation once about cars, something Baccari initiated to get a feel for his coworker. He thought everything was good with Farook until yesterday when 14 friends were killed.

BACCARI: I assumed Syed was our friend as well. You wish him well. He's had a new baby. You try to make sure that you're safe and the people around you are safe wherever you are. And so if you don't make a connection with people, you can make that connection. But I guess it isn't always to your best interest.

MCEVERS: That's Patrick Baccari, a coworker of Syed Farook and a survivor of yesterday's shooting here in San Bernardino.

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