The Stories of Those Who Died in San Bernardino

Including a woman who had fled extremism decades ago
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2015 12:32 PM CST
The Stories of Those Who Died in San Bernardino
Michael Raymond Wetzel, left rear, is seen with his family in this undated family handout photo.   (Wetzel Family via AP)

Most of the 14 people killed at a holiday banquet in San Bernardino County, Calif., worked in the same county public health department as the man who showed up with his wife and sprayed the hall with gunfire. An official list of the dead was released Thursday, and families, friends, and co-workers came forward to share some of their stories:

  • Nicholas Thalasinos, 52: He identified as a Messianic Jew and passionately defended Israel. Indeed, a friend says she happened to call him last week while he was having a heated on-the-job discussion about the nature of Islam with Syed Rizwan Farook, with Thalasinos 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.

  • Bennetta Betbadal, 46: She was born in Iran in 1969 and came to the United States at age 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution, according to a family statement. She first settled in New York City but eventually moved to Rialto, Calif. 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. "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.
  • Robert Adams, 40: The Yucaipa resident, who worked as an environmental health specialist for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, met his wife when they were teenagers and the two became high school sweethearts before eventually getting married. Before the tragedy, they were planning their 20-month-old daughter's first trip to Disneyland next week.
  • Shannon Johnson, 45: Johnson was the lone 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 LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's Crisis Response Team.
  • Isaac Amanios, 60: Amanios was a supervising environmental health specialist. NFL player Nat Berhe wrote on Twitter that Amanios was a cousin and "a great human being. Thoughts and prayers are with my family back in CA." The Los Angeles Times wrote that Amanios is survived by his wife and three children. A witness told the USA Today Network that he was sitting next to Syed Farook, the gunman, at the meeting before Farook left.
Also killed: Aurora Banales Godoy, 26; Yvette Velasco, 27; Sierra Clayborn, 27; Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42; Michael Raymond Wetzel, 37; Damian Meins, 58; Tin Nguyen, 31; Harry Bowman, 46; and Juan Espinoza, 50. Read their stories here. (More San Bernardino shooting stories.)

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