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San Bernardino shooting: 14 fatalities include father of 6, online gamer

The 14 people killed in Wednesday's mass shooting at an office holiday party in Southern California include a man who enjoyed online role-playing games, a coffee shop operator and a retiree who had recently returned to work.

People at holiday work party slain by Syed Rizwan Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik

Michael Wetzel, top left, worked for the county of San Bernardino. He had six children ranging in age from infancy to adolescence, and also leaves behind his wife, Renee Wetzel. A crowdfunding campaign to support the family had raised $156,500 US by Thursday evening. (Youcaring.com)

The 14 people killed in Wednesday's mass shooting at an office holiday party in Southern California include a man who enjoyed online role-playing games, a coffee shop operator and a retiree who had recently returned to work. 

The San Bernardino County sheriff-coroner released the names of the victims Thursday late afternoon.

The coroner's office listed the victims who died as: 

  • Robert Adams, 40, of Yucaipa, Calif.
  • Isaac Amanios, 60, of Fontana, Calif.
  • Bennetta Betbadal, 46, of Rialto, Calif.
  • Harry Bowman, 46, of Upland, Calif.
  • Sierra Clayborn, 27, of Moreno Valley, Calif.
  • Juan Espinoza, 50, of Highland, Calif.
  • Aurora Godoy, 26, of San Jacinto, Calif. 
  • Shannon Johnson, 45, of Los Angeles.
  • Larry Kaufman, 42, of Rialto, Calif.
  • Damian Meins, 58, of Riverside, Calif.
  • Tin Nguyen, 31, of Santa Ana, Calif.
  • Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, of Colton, Calif.
  • Yvette Velasco, 27, of Fontana, Calif. 
  • Michael Wetzel, 37, of Lake Arrowhead, Calif.

"We must stand strong and offer support to each individual affected by this senseless attack," Sheriff John McMahon said in the release. 

San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan said 12 of those killed in the attack at the Inland Regional Center, where the party was taking place, were county government employees.  

Authorities have identified Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and wife Tashfeen Malik, 27, as the two people who opened fire at the staff gathering, which was for San Bernardino County public health department employees. Farook worked for the department.

As of Thursday afternoon, authorities said 14 people were dead and 21 people were confirmed injured after Wednesday's shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California. (NBC/Reuters)

The couple died in a shootout with police several hours after the rampage.

There were 75 to 80 people attending the party at the time of the massacre, Burguan said. 

Here is what is known about some of the dead:

Robert Adams, 40

Robert Adams, pictured with his wife, Summer, worked for the county health department and enjoyed an online multiplayer role-playing game. (Adams family)

Adams, said to be a deeply devoted family man, was an environmental health technician for the county.

The Yucaipa resident was known as a loving father and husband who married his high school sweetheart, friends said.

A fundraising page for his wife, Summer, and 20-month-old daughter, Savannah, had raised thousands of dollars in several hours Thursday. Megan Neforos, who set up the page, said she knew Adams's wife through a Facebook group for mothers of young children.

"He was her high school sweetheart," she said. "This is tragic for her. He was an incredibly loving father and devoted husband."

In his spare time, Adams played an internet multiplayer game called Eve Online, according to several people who posted to the fundraising page. Adams's character name in the game was Photon Torpedo.

Isaac Amanios, 60

Isaac Amanios. (asmie/Twitter)

He was a supervising environmental health specialist and a resident of Fontana, Calif. Described as a family man with three children and a wife who worked as a nurse, Amanios's cousin was Nat Berhe, a safety for the NFL's New York Giants. Berhe tweeted about the loss of his relative on Thursday.

Amanios was the oldest of the victims of Wednesday's massacre.

Bennetta Betbadal, 46

She was born in Iran in 1969 and came to the United States at 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution, according to a family statement on a fundraising account set up in her name.

Her cousin, Melani Betbadal, referred reporters to the statement and declined further comment.

She first settled in New York City but eventually moved to Rialto, California. She and her husband, a police officer, were married in 1997 and have three children ages 10, 12 and 15.

Betbadal graduated from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona with a degree in chemistry and took a job as a health inspector with San Bernardino County.

Her husband, Arlen Verdehyou, told The Daily Breeze that he and his wife exchanged texts at 8 a.m. Wednesday. He told her that he had withdrawn money from the bank and would do some Christmas shopping. Betbadal had recently decorated the family's Christmas tree.

She was planning to give a presentation at the annual holiday meeting Wednesday and was excited about it, the family said.

"It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago," the family said in the statement.

Harry Bowman, 46

Bowman had a PhD in geography. (Bowman family)

Bowman had a PhD in geography and worked for the county's environmental health service as a statistical analyst. He was a specialist in spacial data and mapping, according to the L.A. Times, and had contributed to a University of Southern California centre that studies terrorism and national security.

A Pennsylvania native, Bowman moved to California more than 15 years ago and had two daughters, his mother told several media outlets. She had sent him a package of Christmas presents that were still sitting on the doorstep of his apartment Thursday after his name was made public on the complete list of those killed.  

Bowman's hometown newspaper said he excelled as a student and athlete in high school, and was also an avid hiker. His family has asked for privacy in the wake of his death. 

Sierra Clayborn, 27

Sierra Clayborn worked jobs in retail and at a bank before landing a position at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. She inspected restaurants. (Sierra Clayborn/Facebook)

Her friends say she stood out as someone who always had an encouraging word.

Timothy J. Lee remembers meeting Clayborn in a hip-hop class at the University of California, Riverside. She was active and outgoing, praising classmates when they mastered a routine.

"She always had something encouraging to say," Lee said.

After graduating in 2010, Clayborn worked jobs in retail and at a bank before landing a position at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. Like a number of other victims, she inspected restaurants.

Matthew Peairs, 27, a manager at Red Baron Pizza in Big Bear Lake, Calif., said Clayborn visited the restaurant a day before the shooting to complete an inspection.

"She was one of the nicest health inspectors that we've ever had," he said. "She talked to us like normal people, not just doing her job."

He said they discussed their holiday plans and she mentioned she was going to the department's Christmas party Wednesday.

"She was stoked about the party," Peairs said.

Word spread Wednesday among Clayborn's friends that she was missing. FBI agents later visited her family's house to tell them that she was killed in the attack.

"It's definitely going to be different without her," Lee said.

Juan Espinoza, 50

Espinoza was reported to be a resident of Highland, Calif. He worked as a county health department inspector, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing his daughter. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

Aurora Banales Godoy, 26

Aurora Godoy, right, with her husband James and infant son, was killed in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting, an aunt confirmed. (San Bernadino Sun)

The wife and mother of an infant son was killed in the attack, her aunt, Rebecca Godoy, said in Facebook post that linked to Godoy's own page.

"Yesterday in the shootings in San Bernardino many families were affected. Ours was one of them," Rebecca Godoy wrote. "We will keep her flame alive so that her young son does not forget his special mother."

Godoy's cousin, Nicole Rachelle Chelley, declined further comment when contacted by the AP through Facebook email.

Shannon Johnson, 45

Johnson was the only victim who lived in Los Angeles, a long commute to San Bernardino County, where he worked as a health inspector.

He rose before dawn every morning to get to his job from his home in Koreatown, which he shared with his girlfriend, Mandy Pfifer, who was a longtime member of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Crisis Response Team.

The mayor's office said in a statement Thursday night that "we have learned that one of our own … is among those who lost their lives."

Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42

Daniel Kaufman was described as a free spirit with a smile that 'would change the entire environment of a room.' (Daniel Kaufman/Fox23)

He ran an independently owned coffee shop inside the Inland Regional Center, where the county health workers were using a hall for their holiday banquet. The shop's workers included people with developmental disabilities, which can include epilepsy, autism and intellectual disabilities.

Eileen Richey, the executive director of the Association of Regional Center Agencies, said his death "fills us with sorrow, knowing so many families are in mourning."

Kaufman, of Rialto, Calif., was an avid participant in the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California each spring, said friend Katherine Panowicz, who had known him for 15 years.

She said he typically participated in parades, carrying either a pennant or a lance on a make-believe horse. The fair community is devastated to lose a friend with such a big smile, she said.

"It would change the entire environment of a room just because he had a big brilliant smile," she said.

Damian Meins, 58

Damian Meins, 58, had retired from the Riverside County health department after 28 years. 'Service to others, helping others — he very much took that to heart,' said a lifelong friend. (Facebook)

He was passionate about serving his community, a message he took from the priests at his Catholic high school in Riverside and carried throughout his life.

Meins never strayed far from his church or its teachings, said Walter Hackett, who met Meins some 40 years ago in high school.

"Service to others, helping others — he very much took that to heart," Hackett said.

Hackett called his friend "a good, good guy."

"Funny and smart and tall, a real quick smile, very friendly and outgoing," he said. "It's a real hard hit for all of us who knew him."

Meins married his high school sweetheart, now a Catholic school principal, and they raised two daughters, one a teacher. Meins was fondly remembered as the guy who dressed up as Santa for school pictures, according to a parent's social media posting Thursday.

Meins' Facebook page, where he can be seen smiling with his family in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, says he studied business administration at the University of Redlands starting in 1991. In 1979, he graduated from UC Riverside. He was also retired from the Riverside County after working there for 28 years.

In addition to working in the public health department in San Bernardino, Meins was an extended care co-ordinator at St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Riverside, where he also helped kids create Christmas art projects and religious murals, Hackett said.

Meins received a community award for his work in Riverside, which was based on "compassion, courage, forgiveness, generosity, humility, inclusiveness, integrity, kindness, respect and service."

A living Rosary for the Meins family was held Thursday.

Tin Nguyen, 31

Tin Nguyen, 31, was a public health inspector, working in the same department as one of the two suspected shooters. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

She was supposed to get married in 2017, her family told media outlets.

Born in Vietnam, Nguyen was a food inspector with the county health department. She lived in Santa Ana.

"She was the glue" that held the family together, one cousin said. Always "the planner," another one added, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke. And you wouldn't want to have her catch you cussing, another cousin said.

Nicholas Thalasinos, 52

Nicholas Thalasinos met his wife, Jennifer Thompson-Thalasinos online through their mutual fandom of the 1980s TV show Beauty and the Beast. They were believers in Messianic Judaism. He is pictured here wearing a prayer shawl. (Jennifer Thompson-Thalasinos)

He identified as a Messianic Jew and passionately defended Israel, actively debating about religion in online forums and in person, his friends said.

Only two weeks ago, Thalasinos, of Colton, was having a heated on-the-job discussion about the nature of Islam with Syed Rizwan Farook, his fellow restaurant inspector and one of the shooters.

Thalasinos' friend, Kuuleme Stephens, told The Associated Press that she happened to call him while he was working with Farook and that he brought her into their debate, loudly declaring that Farook "doesn't agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion."

She heard Farook counter that Americans don't understand Islam, and Thalasinos responded by saying, "I don't know how to talk with him," she said.

Thalasinos wife, Jennifer, told the AP the two "probably did have debates" but "I never got the impression it was in a bad way."

"It was more, you know, just having discussions about religion and faith," she said.

She said she believes her husband died a martyr because of his faith but he never indicated that Syed had radicalized. She said she did not believe her husband was individually targeted.

"They all got along really well. So it's shocking," she said.

Yvette Velasco, 27

Yvette Velasco, 27, was among the 14 killed in the mass shooting in San Bernadino, Calif., Dec. 3. She was described by her family as full of life and 'loved by all who knew her.' (Velasco family/PE.com)

Velasco was described by her family as smart, motivated and full of life.

In a statement, her relatives said she was "loved by all who knew her."

"We are devastated about what happened and are still processing this nightmare," the family said.

Velasco is survived by her parents and three sisters.

"Please pray for our family and the other families who have lost a loved one as a result of this terrible tragedy," her relatives wrote.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Velasco's relatives searched everywhere for her. Mindy Velasco, her aunt, called hospitals, police and evacuee centres in a harrowing search for information, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I'm fearing the worst," she told the paper. "She would definitely be in contact after something like this."

Michael Raymond Wetzel, 37

Friends and fellow church members appealed for help supporting his widow, Renee, a stay-at-home mom in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., and their children.

"Michael was the most amazing person," Renee Wetzel said in a statement, issued through her friend Celia Behar. The couple had five children from previous marriages and one child together.

"He was my best friend and an incredible father who was loved by all. I have never known a better person," the statement said. "He loved his work and his family so very much. Without him, this family will never be the same. We appreciate all the love and support that everyone is showing."

Behar runs a blog for mothers where Renee Wetzel frequently posted, and she turned there to ask for prayers shortly after learning that her husband, an environmental health supervisor, could have been attacked.

"My husband was in a meeting and a shooter came in. There are multiple people dead/shot. I can't get a hold of him," she wrote.

After last month's deadly shootings in Paris, she posted a vacation photo on Facebook, overlain by the colors of the French flag.

After her husband's death was confirmed, she posted a Bible passage: "When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

The Lil' Mamas blog set up an online fundraiser for the Wetzel family on Thursday and quickly raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Church of the Woods also asked its members to pray for the extended family: "Please continue to pray for Renee, his children, and his former wife Amy as they process this terrible tragedy and loss of their husband and father," the church said in a statement.

A crowdfunding campaign to support the family had raised $156,500 US by Thursday evening.
 

2 survivors in critical condition

In addition to the 14 people who died, 21 people were wounded in the attack at the Inland Regional Center. Eighteen of them are county employees. 

At least 10 of those who suffered injuries in the shooting remained in hospital with injuries Thursday evening, two of them in critical condition, according to CNN. Those injured include the people listed here:

Kevin Ortiz — According to the Los Angeles Times, Ortiz, 24, is an environmental inspector with San Bernardino County. He was reportedly shot twice in the leg and once in the shoulder, but called his wife and his father to let them know he was alive.  

"Kevin said he had been shot three times and that he was in pain but he was all right," his wife, Dyana Ortiz, told the Times. "Then he said 'I love you' and I said 'I love you.'"

His father, Carlos Ortiz, said his son called him and said although he was in pain, "Don't worry. There's a policeman with me."   

A Facebook user named Mario Guzman posted a photo of what he said was a prayer circle for Ortiz: 

Guzman also wrote, "Thank you for all the prayers. Our nephew, cousin, brother, son and husband, Kevin Ortiz survived today by the grace of God. A young man with a bright future. Our thoughts also go out to all of his co-workers and their families." 

Denise Peraza — The Los Angeles Times also reported that ​Denise Peraza, 27, was shot in her lower back while hiding under a desk. In describing the shooting afterward, she told her relatives that "everyone dropped to the floor" and "the guys opened fired for 30 seconds, randomly, then paused to reload and began firing again."

A Facebook account for Peraza lists her occupation as an environmental health specialist at the County of San Bernardino and an earth science instructor at Chaffey College. It also says she married Augusto Peraza in April. 

Julie Paez — Paez, a water safety tester for the health department, managed to text her family after she was wounded. Her son, Nick Paez, said Thursday that his mother was shot at least twice and a bullet shattered her pelvis. She sent her family a message through a group chat app to say she'd been shot, he said, and included a selfie that showed just her face.

Two police officers — The identities of two police officers injured in the shootings have not yet been released. 

Flowers are left by the side of the road Thursday as a San Bernardino police officer blocks access to the site of Wednesday's mass shooting. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

 

With files from The Associated Press

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