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article imageHometown of California shooters reels after attack

By Veronique Dupont (AFP)     Dec 7, 2015 in World

Residents of Redlands, a small town east of Los Angeles, are trying to come to terms with their newfound fame as the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in America.

The street where the husband and wife behind the carnage that left 14 people dead and 21 others injured lived has returned to a semblance of normalcy.

But the faces of residents betray the horror and shock left in the aftermath of the December 2 attack.

"My daughter wants to move out, she is terrified," said one woman who lives two doors down from the townhouse that Syed Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik rented.

The woman, who did not want to give her name and spoke in Spanish, said she had never had contact with the couple who died in a shootout with police following the carnage that President Barack Obama branded an "act of terrorism."

"People don't mix here. They go into their homes through their garage and also go out that way," she said.

"I have been living in Redlands for 30 years and nothing has ever happened here.

"But now everyone is scared," she added.

Two women stand underneath posters of support during an interfaith memorial service at the Islamic C...
Two women stand underneath posters of support during an interfaith memorial service at the Islamic Center of Redlands, in Loma Linda, California, for the victims of the San Bernardino mass shooting
Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

"I am a Jehovah's Witness and nobody will open the door anymore."

A few houses down the street, Amanda Witherspoon, 37, a nurse's assistant, said she had once spoken to Malik as she strolled down the street with her baby daughter, now aged six months.

"She was friendly but in a kind of standoffish way," Witherspoon said. "It didn't seem she wanted to have a conversation."

- Traumatized schoolchildren -

Witherspoon said her 11-year-old daughter had been traumatized by the assault, refusing to go to school for two days afterwards.

"She thought maybe they would come to the school even though I told her they were no longer around," Witherspoon said. "She was rattled by it."

An official at a nearby school said several parents had not brought their children to study since the carnage at a year-end party organized by Farook's employer.

A resident of Redlands  California wipes her eye as she prays at a makeshift memorial for the victim...
A resident of Redlands, California wipes her eye as she prays at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting near the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California on December 4, 2015
Robyn Beck, AFP

Elizabeth Abbinante, 35, an administrative assistant who works in the area, said she didn't feel safe anymore in the town that has a large Arab and Muslim population.

"I'm on edge. I'm suspicious. When the phone rings, I'm afraid something terrible has happened," she said.

"You see this white truck?" she asked, pointing to a vehicle nearby. "They were listening to Arabic music. I couldn't help but turn around."

At a gas station in the neighborhood, customers were tense and said they were now on the lookout for anything suspicious.

Doug Olson, a 72-year-old retiree, said he feared having "a gun put to my head."

The station's owner, Daya Sing, who is Indian, said he has already noticed a change in people's attitude.

"People give me bad looks," he said. "I don't have anything to do with this community."

The local mosque, where Farook went about three times a week to pray during his lunch break, was deserted.

Cesar Paredes, 28, whose house adjoins the mosque and whose landlord is the mosque's owner, said he feared a backlash against the community.

"It's becoming crazy these days," he said. "How many Muslim people are there?

"Millions, and for a few bad apples everybody starts thinking they are all like this."

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