A Dad of 6, an NFL Player's Cousin and a Woman Engaged to Be Wed: All 14 Victims Are Named
Michael Raymond Wetzel was a father of six sitting in a business meeting. Nicholas Thalasinos was a sanitary inspector who was just doing his job. The men were among 14 employees who lost their lives when a masked couple opened fire at a San Bernardino County holiday party.
With the country still reeling from the attack, details of the victims started to emerge on Thursday. They were revealed to be between the ages of 26 and 60. Authorities named the victims as:
Shannon Johnson, 45; Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46; Aurora Godoy, 26; Isaac Amanios, 60; Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42; Harry Bowman, 46; Yvette Velasco, 27; Sierra Clayborn, 27; Robert Adams, 40; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52; Tin Nguyen, 31; Juan Espinoza, 50; Damian Meins, 58; and Michael Wetzel, 37.
Here are some of their stories:
Michael Raymond Wetzel, a church-going father of six children, ranging in age from an infant to a teenage son, was shot as he sat in a staff meeting with fellow employees of the county’s environmental health department.
"Michael was the most amazing person," his wife, Renee, said in a statement, issued through a friend. The children shared five children from previous marriages and had 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."
Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, was an environmental health specialist with an "incredibly good work ethic." The father of two grown sons was always a good neighbor and pitched in when folks needed help, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He identified as a Messianic Jew and was passionately defensive of Israel, his friends said. Just two weeks ago, he had a heated discussion about the nature of Islam with one of the gunmen, the Associated Press reported.
Daniel Kaufman, 42, ran an independent coffee shop inside one of the Inland Regional Center buildings.
His partner, Ryan Reyes, saw a post on Facebook saying that Kaufman had been shot in the arm but was OK. But Reyes couldn't get through to Kaufman's cell phone. Later, Reyes learned that his partner was was dead.
Kaufman took part in the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California each spring, according to his friend Katherine Panowicz.
"It would change the entire environment of a room just because he had a big brilliant smile," she said.
Aurora Banales Godoy, 26, was a wife and mother, family said.
"Yesterday in the shootings in San Bernardino many families were affected. Ours was one of them," her aunt Rebecca Godoy wrote on Facebook. "We will keep her flame alive so that her young son does not forget his special mother."
Yvette Velasco, 27, was "loved by all who knew her," her family said in a statement.
"We are devastated about what happened and are still processing this nightmare," the family said. "Please pray for our family and the other families who have lost a loved one as a result of this terrible tragedy."
Velasco is survived by her parents and three sisters.
Tin Nguyen, 31, was engaged to be married in 2017, her family said. She was born in Vietnam.
Isaac Amanios, 60, was cousins with Nat Berhe, who plays for the New York Giants.
“Just got word that one of my cousins was among the 14 killed yesterday, I’m so sick right now,” tweeted Berhe after the attack. He added: "My cousin's name is Isaac Amanios and he was a great human being. Thoughts and prayers are with my family back in CA."
Bennetta Betbadal, 46, was born in Iran in 1969 and came to the U.S. when she was 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution, according to a family statement.
She first moved to New York City but eventually moved to Rialto, California. She married a police officer in 1997 and went on to have three children ages 10, 12 and 15.
"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.
Damian Meins, 58, was also a religious man, friends said.
"Service to others, helping others. He very much took that to heart," said Walter Hackett, a Catholic high school friend. He was "funny and smart and tall. A real quick smile, very friendly and outgoing. It's a real hard hit for all of us who knew him."
He married his high school sweetheart and they had two daughters.
As well as working in the public health department, Meins was an extended care coordinator at St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Riverside, where he also helped children work on Christmas art projects and religious murals, Hackett said.
Sierra Clayborn, 27, was active, outgoing and encourgaing, friends told the AP.
She had graduated in 2010 and inspected restaurants for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.
"She was one of the nicest health inspectors that we've ever had," said Matthew Peairs, the manager of a restaurant in Bear Lake. "She talked to us like normal people, not just doing her job."
Robert Adams, 40, also leaves behind a wife, Summer, and a daughter - a 20-month-old daughter, Savannah.
Friend Megan Neforos said: "He was her high school sweetheart. This is tragic for her. He was an incredibly loving father and devoted husband."
Shannon Johnson, 45, commuted from his home in Los Angeles every morning to his job as a health inspector. He lived with his girlfriend, Mandy Pfifer, who works for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's Crisis Reponse Team.
The mayor's office said in a statement that "we have learned that one of our own ... is among those who lost their lives."