One of the victims of the mass shooting in Southern California has South Jersey roots and had an alleged run-in about faith with one of the shooters before the massacre.
Nicholas Thalasinos died in Wednesday’s rampage at a holiday party for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, according to his wife Jennifer Thalasinos. The shooting left 14 dead and nearly two dozen hurt.
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“I knew he was gone as soon as I heard about what happened,” said Jennifer, a second-grade teacher. “I started texting him when I didn’t hear anything and that’s what I pretty much knew.”
Later Thursday, authorities identified Thalasinos as one of the dead.
Jennifer said her 52-year-old husband has children from a previous marriage who live in New Jersey, including an adult son.
Thalasinos worked as a health inspector for Cape May County more than a decade ago, according to Philly.com.
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“He was just one of the county’s family,” said Cape May County Freeholder Gerald Thornton. “Some of the former employees were saying this morning when they called me that ‘he was just one of ours, he was just an everyday working guy.’”
Thalasinos was also a man of faith. His wife said Thalasinos identified as a Messianic Jew – a belief that combines teachings of Christianity and Judaism – and wore a Star of David – a symbol of Judaism. He shared his faith while doing restaurant inspections in SoCal.
“Because of his love of God he had such a great heart,” Jennifer said outside her California home. “He evangelized to everybody so he had made friends with so many people.”
Thalasinos worked with one of the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, and they had a heated conversation about Islam two weeks before the attack, friend Kuuleme Stephens told the AP.
Stephens said both men worked as county restaurant inspectors and regularly discussed politics and religion. Thalasinos identified as a Messianic Jew and was passionate about pro-Israel causes.
Stephens said she happened to call 52-year-old Thalasinos while he was at work and having a discussion with Farook. Thalasinos identified Farook by name and told her Farook believed Islam was a peaceful religion.
It's not clear if the discussion was a factor in the attack.
Jennifer didn’t mention the alleged incident while speaking Thursday but she did share a Facebook post her husband made in the hours before his death after someone threatened him because of his faith.
No word yet on funeral details for Thalasinos.