Their jobs were to keep their friends and neighbors healthy. They died together on Wednesday, shot at an office holiday party, allegedly by a co-worker.
Twelve of the fourteen victims were San Bernardino County employees, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a press conference Thursday evening.
Many of those killed in the assault on the Inland Regional Center worked for the health department, making their living inspecting restaurants, pools, water treatment systems and other public facilities. Here are some of their stories:
Michael Raymond Wetzel
Michael Raymond Wetzel, was a 37-year-old father of six who supervised a team of health inspectors in the county Environmental Health Services division. His death was first confirmed by his church, Church of the Woods in nearby Lake Arrowhead.
His wife, Renee Wetzel, said she didn’t know a better person. “He loved his work and his family so very much,” she said in a statement posted online. “Without him, this family will never be the same.”
Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, a longtime inspector, was also among the dead, his wife told NBC News. Jennifer Thalasinos said her husband was a devout Messianic Jew and very outspoken politically. She said she considered him a martyr for his faith.
She and Nicholas had recently renewed their marriage vows, according to The Associated Press. “He was a wonderful person,” Joey Shimoni, a friend of Thalasinos, told the AP. “A great husband and just a sweet soul.”
Also gunned down was health inspector Damian Meins, a married 58-year-old father of two. His death was being mourned at St. Catherine School of Alexandria in Riverside, where he worked as an aftercare director and where his daughter is a teacher. The school held a service in his honor on Thursday.
His daughter, Tina M. Meins, told the Orange County Register that her father came out of retirement in September to work for the San Bernardino County of Environmental Health Services. He worked alongside suspected shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.
Sierra Clayborn, 27, was a recent addition to the team of county inspectors. She was confirmed dead by her sister, Tamishia Clayborn, who spoke to local NBC affiliate KNBC. Mary Hale, who managed the property where Clayborn lived with her boyfriend, said she was “someone special.”
“She was such a beautiful person. Absolute sweetheart,” she said sobbing. Hale said the last time she spoke to Clayborn was last Wednesday, when she came to wish Hale a Happy Thanksgiving before going to spend it with her family.
“Boy, the world’s missing out on someone special,” she said.
The county workers had gathered Wednesday morning in the Inland Regional Center for a holiday luncheon. One of their fellow inspectors, Farook, was among the group. He left in the middle of the party and returned a little while later with his wife and started shooting, authorities said. The couple fled the scene but were killed in a confrontation with police that evening.
Daniel Kaufman, 42, trained developmentally disabled employees at the Inland Regional Center’s coffee shop, his boyfriend, Ryan Reyes, told NBC News. Reyes said that he initially was told that Kaufman had been shot but survived. But on Thursday officials said he was dead. “Everyone in my family is devastated,” Kaufman’s uncle, Gregory Johnson, told NBC News. “Daniel was a good person that we all loved. ”
Harry Bowman, 46, of Upland, was a father of two daughters, ages 11 and 15, family member Bill Kraft told the Los Angeles Times. “Death at its best is hard to take. This type of death is extremely hard to take, especially when you have young children,” Kraft, of Aurora, Ill., said. “There is no way you are going to make them understand.”
Benneta Betbadal, 46, of Rialto, fled Iran when she was just 18 to escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians, her family said in a statement announcing a memorial fund.
“Benneta left the house Wednesday morning, excited about a presentation she was scheduled to give to her supervisors and coworkers at their annual meeting,” the statement 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.”
New York Giants safety Nat Berhe said in a post on Twitter that Isaac Amanois,60, was his cousin. “Just got word that one of my cousins was among the 14 killed yesterday, I’m so sick right now,” he said in a post earlier Thursday.
“My cousin’s name is Isaac Amanios and he was a great human being,” he said in another post after the coroner’s list was released. “Thoughts and prayers are with my family back in CA.”
Robert Adams, 40, of Yucaipa, was “a devoted father” to his 20-month-old baby Savannah and an Environmental Health Specialist with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, according to a statement from the agency.
“Robert always wanted to be a father and for the past 20-months, he was a devoted father to Savannah and cherished every moment with her,” the statement said.
Tin Nguyen, 31, was a food inspector with the county health department, according to the Orange County Register. She stopped by the morning meeting at the Inland Regional Center on Wednesday, her cousin Calvin Nguyen told USA Today.
Her mother tried to call her on Wednesday night after hearing news that Nguyen was inside the building that had been attacked, her cousin said. “Her mom tried to call, and all people tried to call, but no answer,” Calvin told the newspaper.
“She was very intelligent, a good girl, takes care of mom and family,” he said.
Juan Espinoza, 50, of Highland, worked as a health inspector for the health department of San Bernardino, his daughter Jerusalem told the Los Angeles Times. He is survived by his wife, Sandra, 47; daughter, Jerusalem, 25; and son, Jonathan, 13, the Orange County Register reported.
On Thursday afternoon, the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office released the full list of names, the other fatalities are: Shannon Johnson, 45, of Los Angeles; Aurora Godoy, 26, of San Jacinto and Yvette Velasco, 27, of Fontana.
Another 21 people were hit by gunfire and lived.
One of them, food inspector Patrick Baccari, happened to be in the bathroom when the attack began. He recalled standing at the paper towel dispenser when the gun blasts punched the wall in front of him, sending a puff of drywall dust into his face.
After realizing what was happening, Baccari, a retired Air Force Reserves medic, hit the floor; he and another man held the door closed with their feet until police arrived. “That may have saved me,” Baccari said.
Later, Baccari was shocked when he found out who the accused gunman was; he and Farook shared an office cubicle and had sat at the same table at the party earlier that morning.
Another survivor, Julie Paez, arrived at the party expecting to receive an award for employee of the year. She ended up getting shot in the thigh and abdomen, her three children told the Los Angeles Times.
Another survivor, Kevin Ortiz, a 24-year-old health inspector who’d recently married, was shot three times but was able to call his wife and father, telling them that he loved them, they told the Los Angeles Times.
Denise Paraza, 27, also managed to call her family despite being shot. She told them she’d ducked under a table when the gunfire started and ended up getting hit in the back, the relatives told the Los Angeles Times.
From the floor of shooting scene, she texted her family: “Love you guys. Was shot.” She was recovering in the hospital with a shattered pelvis, the children said.