Transcript: San Bernardino shooters' family attorneys speak out

(CNN)CHRIS CUOMO: How does the family explain the developments about their son and brother; the activities in the house, the activities with the murders. How do they explain what's been learned about him?

DAVID CHESLEY: It's really challenging because they never saw any warning signs or any real characteristics that would let them know that any of this was going to take place. So for them, they've alluded to the fact that sometimes his coworkers have done silly things like made fun of Syed's beard, for example. But it's like, there's so little there to understand or explain what happened or why it happened and that's kind of what makes this fascinating. There's no connection to anything having to do with religion, although that's tried to been connected to. It's just there's no evidence of anything really.
CHRIS CUOMO: The federal authorities are saying that they believe there is proof that he had become radicalized. You say that's not true?
DAVID CHESLEY: We haven't seen anything and believe me we've met with the FBI, and, you know, someone has alluded to the fact that they found something on his computer that he may have talked to somebody who talked to, or spoken with somebody on the computer, who viewed something about ISIS but it's like, it's so tenuous. There's nothing really there. No one's been able to find anything. And we were in interviews with the FBI for 3 hours today and there was nothing found. As much as they asked the family they couldn't pinpoint any warning signs, any aggressiveness on the part of them.
    CHRIS CUOMO: They're also flagging the travel abroad. Does the family have any insight into the trips to Saudi Arabia and who he met there and what he was doing there because clearly it's raised the suspicions of the authorities.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Well, Syed Farook traveled to Saudi as part of his pilgrimage. He went to Hajj. That was the first time he went there. The next time he went there was to get married. He met his wife online, through an online dating website and he traveled over there to get married to her. He never traveled to Pakistan, he traveled to Saudi.
    CHRIS CUOMO: You say Pakistan because that's where his wife was born.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: His wife was born in Pakistan. She was born and raised in Pakistan. And then at about the age of 18 to 20 she had moved to Riyadh.
    CHRIS CUOMO: What do they know about her? Because obviously this is highly unusual for a woman to not just be involved in the planning but the execution of these kinds of murders?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Well they don't know that anybody was involved or that she was involved in the planning of this. She was very conservative. She was a stay-at-home mom. She was helping raise the children. She was helping take care of the mother at the house. They're a very close-knit family. Not too many people knew anything about them. And back to your original question, the family was just in shock as everybody else was when they heard out about this. This wasn't something they saw over time developing or occurring.
    CHRIS CUOMO: You are not surprised to hear there is an equal amount of shock by people when they hear the family didn't see this. When they learn about all the bombs and the tools and the materials and the ammo, the thousands of rounds. How do you not see any of that if you're close family?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Well, as you know Chris, when people have guns and they have ammo, a lot of times when they go to a shooting and firing range is they do waste a lot of ammo at these ranges. Having a good amount of ammo doesn't mean that you're planning an attack. They're making points about the SUV that he was driving. He's rented SUVs before. This isn't the first time that he's done this. There wasn't anything to the family to show or signify that he's doing something out of the ordinary.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Help us understand that in terms of the weapons and ammo...this is America, we know people have their guns and love them. We know that he had on his social media that he liked to take target practice but thousands of 223 rounds, thousands of 9 milimeter rounds...this is not necessarily normal, certainly not something you would just casually dismiss, would it?
    DAVID CHESLEY: Well I can tell you that as a gun owner myself, I purchase, you know, in the thousands of rounds. Easily 2,000, 5,000 rounds. It's very common for the reason that the government keeps on changing their rules and regulations, their laws regarding what is going to be permissible, what is not going to be permissible. And very frequently certain bullets are not available all the time and it's cheaper if you buy in bulk and especially if you're somebody who does like to shoot target practice. If the munitions are available at the time, oftentimes you just want to buy as much as possible. It's not tell tale about any future plan or activity, per say. It's just being prepared and having what you need in case it hits the fan. You're not really. And you're getting a better price. And again the flow, there's oftentimes certain bullets you can't have access to them. They're not available because they've sold out or there's restrictions put on them or homeland security buys 200 million or something like that.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Understood that that might be what goes through your head and to why you do it as a gun owner. I'm saying does the family have any insight into why he was doing it?
    DAVID CHESLEY: I don't think that this is a lot of munitions first of all. I think it was just an average amount. But I think that everyone knows that he just did this for target practice and there was no plan here. There has been no evidence of any plan.
    CHRIS CUOMO: The problem is, of course, he didn't just do it for target practice right? So it winds up creating a lens of suspicion for all of this. The family know anything about the types of weapons that he had or where he got them? Because supposedly the two long rifles he didn't buy?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No. The family just knew that he had a couple handguns, that he was a registered owner and he told his family that he does keep them locked up. That's all they knew about the weapons and that he would go to the firing range here and there but none of them would go with him. He wouldn't take them with him to the firing range. He would go by himself.
    CHRIS CUOMO: The nature of the relationship with him and his wife...it is always hard in a tight-knit family to not understand how you don't know everything about each other but you're saying that is the case here, that there is some loaner aspect to him, there was a change with him when he got married. How so?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: He was always conservative. He would always keep to himself. His wife, compared to the rest of the family, she was, they're kind of on their own little planet. They weren't married that long. They were kind of like newlyweds. They kind of kept to themselves in the whole situation. The family, the sisters would talk to her and they would see her once in a while. But it wasn't something that they would be getting together every single day, every single week. It was just they would see her at these family events, they talked to her. That would be it.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Was she known to have different views on faith or on the world as they did?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No she was Muslim. And so are they. It's the same view.
    CHRIS CUOMO: But when you say Muslim, where on that spectrum was she in terms of things? Was she somebody who had a different set of ideals? Was she more of an extreme person when it came to faith? Was there anything like that?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: There is nothing to show that she was extreme at all. She was a practicing Muslim. She believed in the religion and she was just doing the five prayers a day. She was fasting. She was doing everything she could do to just be a good Muslim. There is nothing to show that she was out of the ordinary.
    CHRIS CUOMO: And there's nothing to the families reckoning that showed she changed something in him?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No.
    CHRIS CUOMO: So where do you go with this? In terms of how they explain how he went from someone they knew and loved to somebody who could do something so monstrous?
    DAVID CHESLEY: There's a lot of disconnects and there's a lot of unknowns and there's a lot of things that quite frankly don't add up or seem implausible. I don't, she was never involved in shooting. She's probably about 90 pounds, so it's unlikely she could even carry a weapon or wear some type of a vest or do any of this. Where the couple was found, from what I understand, is that they were handcuffed lying face-down in this truck, shot up. There's a lot of things that just don't make sense. You know. No one has ever seen Syed with any of the things that they, I mean, with some of the things they found on the scene. They haven't seen them with them.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Like what?
    DAVID CHESLEY: The pipe bombs, for example. No one had ever seen him use or have anything like that and it just doesn't make sense for these two to be able to act like some kind of Bonnie and Clyde or something. It's just ridiculous. It doesn't add up. They don't have the military skills to carry out something like this really, frankly.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Authorities go back and forth on whether or not this shows sophistication or lack of sophistication in terms of how it was carried out but are you saying that you're not sure that they did this?
    DAVID CHESLEY: I'm just telling you straight out that it doesn't make sense. It looks like, if somebody had military training or something, yes, but there was none of that. And this person was not aggressive. We sat with the FBI for 3 hours and they tried to identify some characteristics or some affiliations that he might have had that could have led him to act in this way. And they couldn't find anything. They were totally stumped, totally frustrated. In the media, some have said that it may be work-related, like he was disgruntled in some way, but really everyone is clueless because there is nothing that would characterize him to act in this manner.
    CHRIS CUOMO: But to be clear, does the family have any doubts as to whether or not this was him and his wife who did it? Because the authorities have none, as you know.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: I think the family has come to terms with the situation. As the facts have been coming out and they have been very accepting of it. They send their apologies and their wishes and their prayers to everybody who lost their lives. And they've let that be known already. So I think the family has been accepting of everything that has come out through the media and through the police reports. And they're very remorseful and they're very sad. They lost two family members of their own as well.
    CHRIS CUOMO: I just want to make sure that I'm hearing the same thing from you, Counsel, because it seems like you're saying it doesn't make sense she might not have done this?
    DAVID CHESLEY: I'm just telling you as an attorney, I don't speak for the family and their views, and they're not deniers in any way, they're not actually affiliated with us in any way, they were really surprised to hear about these events. They were shocked. When they started to hear about them, they were worried for the safety of Syed. They thought that he might have been getting attacked. They were completely shocked when they found out about it so they're not denying anything. I'm just telling you from an attorney's perspective and the cases I've had, the facts don't make sense, that's all I would say.
    CHRIS CUOMO: That's the part I don't get. I know that you're not here to plead the case for the people who did the killing? I hope.
    DAVID CHESLEY: Yeah, I'm frustrated by that.
    CHRIS CUOMO: The officers say they took fire from this SUV, the people in the SUV were him and her. That's kind of the end of the analysis.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID : Well, Chris, as you know as an attorney yourself, you do also understand that we have to wait for everything to come in, not just bits and parts of the factual basis. There's more information.
    CHRIS CUOMO: What could come in? Give me a possibility what could come in?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID : I don't know what could come in. But there's more information that we still haven't received yet. You guys haven't received everything yet. Nobody has. And I think that's just what he was kind of mentioning is that we need to wait for everything to come in and then go from there. This just happened. Emotions are running high. We need to wait for everything to come in . As an attorney you have to do your due diligence and I think that's what David is hitting on right now.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Certainly the authorities are doing the same thing. They keep asking who knew, is this broader, was there planning bombs, is it about the travel, is it about who they were with here, who helped him figure out how to build these bombs, was it her, was that the point of the connection is of course what leads them to the family. And what you're saying is they have no indication of who he was hanging out with, who he was talking to, who he might've been idolizing or looking up to that might in some way explain how his head got in such a defective place.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: It wasn't that he was idolizing anybody. He had his religion. He was practicing his religion. There wasn't some sort of idol or Iman or somebody specific that he was idolizing.
    CHRIS CUOMO: He wasn't at a mosque? Or going to a place that was known --
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Well, a mosque is a religious center that we pray at.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Absolutely -- the context is he wasn't known to be visiting with anyone who supposedly has extreme views?? As opposed to just going to mosque the way I go to church?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No. He was somebody that had his family. He would go to his prayer. He would go to his work. He was a normal guy in every sense of the word. He would go do his prayers. He would have his family. He had a daughter. She's 6 months old. So he was living everything by the American life and that's what they kind of viewed themselves as. They came, they grew up in Chicago, Illinois, they moved over here. Each one of them has a job, a career, a family. They were living the American dream.
    CHRIS CUOMO: No extreme politics, he didn't say anything that made them think he was getting out there or changing in anyway??
    DAVID CHESLEY: If there would have been something, it would have come out in that three and a half hours that we spent with the FBI where they questioned the sisters and the brother and literally they were digging and digging and it just came to the point of frustration because it just became obvious that there was none of the affiliations they were talking about. There was nothing on social media. There was no ties to any extremists. There was no friendships or any ties to any unusual groups who might suggest any kind of nefarious activity or anything like that. And there was no suggestion by him beforehand to anyone around him and that was telltale by the fact that they were all so shocked and couldn't believe it. They still can't believe it. They're still shocked. They still can't believe this happened.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Dropping off the baby they dropped it off with the grandmother, we're told.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID Well they didn't drop her off with the grandmother. The grandmother lived at the house with them. So Syed, his wife and the child and the mother lived at the house. So he was going off to work. He was actually going to take him and his wife to a doctor's appointment and they told the mother just to watch the baby while they go to the doctor's appointment. So they didn't drop off the baby. They just told the mother to watch over her, their child, while they went to a doctor's appointment.
    CHRIS CUOMO: The authorities see that as potential cover story, potential proof of planning that there was no doctor's appointment, they just left the baby there and then hatched this plot. Is that how it plays out or do you have information about there being another doctor's appointment or anything like that?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: We have no information about anything about there being a doctor's appointment or no doctor's appointment. All of that information is still coming towards us. FBI says the same thing. The information that they have we give them, they've given us as well.
    CHRIS CUOMO: You keep referring to the idea that this has been hard on the family. The mother...was detained, you're saying, and that she was held, and it was a little bit of a hard-lined situation by the authorities saying, you're not going anywhere until we get some information. Tell me about it. What has the family endured?
    DAVID CHESLEY: They held the mother for a period of time that they held the mother. They've also held the car of Syed's brother and they still have that in their possession. They're probably going to try to get a warrant to search that. And while they had the mother they were kind of trying to use her as leverage to say come in and speak to us now. And if you don't we have to hold her as long as it takes until you come and speak with us and in addition they seem to really be pressuring the mother and not allowing the mother time to get an attorney. I understand there's a lot of pressure on them to find out what happened in the case obviously. But it seemed like there were some kind of a, they weren't exactly giving her time to get proper legal representation and to recover from the event. I mean basically her son just died. She's been totally emotionally a disaster since that time. She's been crying all day today too. So it's not really a time when you can get good answers from a witness anyway. They actually were going to go back on Monday because they want to talk to her again but it was just not the type of circumstance. It was kind of a little bit of duress in our opinion the way that that was conducted.
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: And I think what you guys should also know is that the family voluntarily went to that FBI offices today. They're the ones who called the FBI to go in today to speak with them to help them and cooperate with any type of questions they might have. The family has been more than willing to help out the FBI, any type of investigations that are occurring as well. They've issued search warrants on their house, they've been there day and night. They've been helping as much as they can on their part with the investigation that's ongoing.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Does the family understand the urgency involved? From the investigative side as well as how horrible as this?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Which is why the family is there. They spent about 4 hours today there at the FBI office in Riverside. Which is why they allowed the FBI to come into their house. They've been cooperating with them. The FBI doesn't have to go get a subpoena to get them to come in. The family members are voluntarily going to the office to get there and I think that's something that is very commendable on their part.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Why would they need a warrant to search the car if the family wants to be cooperative?
    DAVID CHESLEY: We were cooperative but the part that becomes difficult is the brother knows that he wasn't in any way involved with this whole situation. He knows there's nothing in this truck. Now we asked to have it back reasonably soon. But the problem is they're probably going to hold it for 60 days. So he can consent but the likelihood is that they're just going to rip the entire car apart. It's a new truck and that was basically the main reason. He's fine with them searching because he knows there's nothing there. But he doesn't want the truck destroyed and he doesn't want to give them permission to destroy his things. There's also a phone in there and he doesn't want to give them consent to go through all these personal items. Basically discovery, as you know as an attorney, needs to be limited to the facts of the case but also he just knows that there's nothing there. But he's definitely not concerned about anything. He was totally open all day today with them.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Assuming everything is as you understand it, this family's like in an impossible position -- because if the authorities don't consider them people of interest, or suspects, or whatever vernacular they want to use for the investigation, they still have this whole separate atmosphere of judgement, this community, people who find it hard to believe you couldn't know anything about somebody who was doing so many extreme things. How do they handle that?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: Well I think you look around the country and you see all the unfortunate events that have been taking place. There are shooters of every type of religion, shootings that have taken place all over the country. And their family members don't know either. But when you see a family that's trying to help and do everything that they can in their power to help, I think it'll show that the American Muslim society is not for these types of acts. There has not been any time where the American Muslim society has come out and gone with these types of incredibly sad acts that have occurred. And the family's been doing everything they can. And that's all they can do right now.
    CHRIS CUOMO: This place is their life. This is their home. Are they afraid that they may lose their home because of this?
    DAVID CHESLEY: I think, if I may. I think that they're just afraid that they're going to lose the comfort and security of being an American because now they've been threatened and harassed. You know, originally Syed's brother's photo was taken from LinkedIn and posted on I think the Daily Mail or the Daily, improperly, and he was identified as being Syed but then he received a ton of threatening phone calls. The climate that's been created politically recently against Muslims is very unfortunate and unnecessary. Calling for people to be...mosques to be monitored and people's names to be registered and people to be killed without due process if they're linked to anything. It's really frightening. It's really moving in a fascist direction. So I think what they're most concerned about is their safety and as Mohammed has said it's just been something that's been condemned by all Muslims, by the entire Muslim community. They're praying on behalf of the victims, the family is praying on behalf of the victims, they're grieving very deeply. And they just don't want to lose their rights to be American, too, and the things that comes with.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Last question. You're dealing with this professionally, you're getting a feel for how this plays politically and you know it personally. When something like this happens and the people are involved are Muslim and it sets up like a terrorist attack -- what are people to think? What do you want people to think about a situation like this?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: That this is an isolated incident. That these are isolated individuals. That they don't speak for the majority. The religion of Islam is a beautiful religion that would never invoke or agree with any type of killing like this. That is not what the religion is about. It is about peace, it is about love, it is about understanding. These isolated individuals, they have no part in our religion and we've never agreed with them in our religion. And I think the media can help portray that in the way that they label that as well. These aren't Muslim radicals, these aren't Muslims. Islam is not a religion of killing. It's not a religion of murder. And I think that's what the public needs to know.
    CHRIS CUOMO: You were shaking your head when I was making the suggestion of this as terrorism because?
    DAVID CHESLEY: Well I think we need to separate and just get the word Muslim out of the headlines because it doesn't make any sense. When you have an attack on a Planned Parenthood building or an abortion clinic, the headline isn't "Catholic extremist attacks abortion clinic." They don't mention religion. It's not a religious thing. You can't categorize entire behaviors in a...you can't take behaviors and assign them to an entire religion of people when that person doesn't represent that religion. That person that bombs the abortion clinic, I don't think any catholic would stand up and say, "Oh, what a great catholic, I agree with that." That's not good behavior and the same with this. This is not representative of this community. And to try to assign this to this community and to try to stigmatize this community with events like this is totally erroneous. It's not fair. It's not just. And it's hurtful to our society. It needs to stop. They just need to look at these as they would with these other incidents where they would say, "Oh, this person obviously had a mental problem, was unstable." But this is unrelated to any religion. This is bizarre.
    CHRIS CUOMO: Any indication of mental health or we don't know anything there either?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No we're still waiting to get any type of records back if there was any mental health issues.
    CHRIS CUOMO: But the family would've known, no?
    MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID: No, The family said there is no issues of mental health but the family hasn't been as close to him as they were in the last couple of years anyway. So as everything comes out we'll all know.