San Bernardino shooting victim from N.J. had argued politics with suspect, friend says
One of the victims in the San Bernardino massacre is a former New Jersey man who verbally sparred about Israel two weeks ago with a man whom police have identified as one of the shooters, a friend of the victim said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, a health inspector who moved from Cape May County 13 years ago, enjoyed arguing about politics with his co-workers, the friend, Kuuleme Stephens, said.
Stephens, who lives in Arizona, said she called Thalasinos on his cellphone two weeks ago as he argued with a co-worker whom he identified as Syed Farook. Authorities have said a man named Syed Rizwan Farook, who worked at the San Bernardino County Health Department with Thalasinos and other victims, was a gunman in Wednesday’s massacre, along with his wife. They killed 14 people, including Thalasinos, at a holiday party for health workers, authorities said.
Stephens said that she heard Farook over the phone talking loudly two weeks ago, but that the tone of the argument seemed passionate rather than threatening. “I can’t get anywhere with him,” Thalasinos said, according to Stephens.
The day before the shooting, Thalasinos, an outspoken conservative and strong proponent of Israel, had posted on his Facebook page that he received a threatening message from someone purporting to be from Ukraine and whose Facebook page included a photo of a man holding a gun and pointing it into the air. The message said, according to his post, that “you will die and never see Israel as country believe me never.” Thalasinos wrote that the sender appeared to believe he is Jewish.
“A great compliment,” Thalasinos wrote.
Stephens said that Thalasinos was a member of the Greek Orthodox Church but had recently converted to become a Messianic Jew, a form of Christianity that includes elements of Judaism. His wife, Jennifer, a schoolteacher, told the Los Angeles Times that she shared her husband’s religion and that he wore a tie clip with the Star of David on it.
“He wanted to serve the Lord and bring more people to the Lord,” she told the Times, adding that her husband was outspoken about Islamic terrorism. “I’m sure he went down fighting and protecting people,” she said.
She also said that her husband and Farook “got along.”
‘Heated, not violent’
Stephens said her friend did not seem to be afraid of Farook: “These conversations always become heated, but not violent,” she said. “I don’t think he saw that coming, that he could be violent.” She said she had not been contacted by the FBI or other authorities investigating the case but expected to get a call from them.
Thalasinos, she said, was “pro everything American” and enjoyed talking about politics, including his support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms and his antiabortion stance.
He posted on his Facebook page numerous links to articles that appeared to reflect his political views. Several referred to Islamic terrorism, some were critical of President Obama, particularly the nuclear treaty with Iran, and some were antiabortion. Last week, on the day of a fatal shooting at a Planned Parenthood agency in Colorado and five days before he was killed by gunfire, he posted: “WHY is the LIBERAL MEDIA so UPSET there is a SOCIOPATHIC KILLER in a Planned Parenthood office?!? INNOCENT BABIES are DISMEMBERED there EVERY DAY.”
Juda Myers of Texas said she got to know Thalasinos because of his support for an organization she founded that supports women who become pregnant after being raped. She called him “a passionate guy” who led his life according to his religious beliefs and who freely shared his thoughts on social media sites. “He wanted people to know the Messiah,” she said. “We are Christians. It is not something that you can set aside.”
Worked in Cape May
Thalasinos had worked as an environmental health specialist for Cape May County 13 years ago, conducting food inspections at restaurants as part of his duties, said the county freeholder director, Gerry Thornton. He worked for the county from 1988 to 2002, when he moved to California. Thornton said Thalasinos had two children, who are now adults.
“He was part of the county family,” Thornton said. “He was a stickler for regulations and really protected this county.”
Thalasinos met his wife 14 years ago on an Internet site devoted to a 1980s TV show called “Beauty and the Beast,” according to a posting on gofundme.com. According to the posting, he and his wife “shared their love for science fiction and fantasy and had a very deep, spiritual relationship.” It went on to say they “went through quite a lot” during their time together, including “loss” and “health issues” but that they “always had each other to depend on.”
Stephens said Thalasinos recently had “a growth” removed from his head.
Thalasinos, she said, believed he could engage in political discussions with people whose views differed from his own and that they could “come to a common ground.” However, she said, at times he became upset when the tone of the arguments grew harsh. “He didn’t know how people can get along if they can’t even talk,” she said.