One of the victims of the San Bernardino shooting was identified on Thursday as a Messianic Jew who had a heated discussion with the shooter about Islam weeks before the attack.
According to the Times of Israel, the details came to light as investigators tried to determine whether the rampage that left 14 people dead was terrorism, a workplace grudge or some combination.
Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, passionately defended Israel, and actively debated religion in online forums and in person, his friends said. Only two weeks ago, Thalasinos was having a heated on-the-job discussion about the nature of Islam with Syed Rizwan Farook, his fellow restaurant inspector and the man police identified as the shooter.
Thalasinos’ friend, Kuuleme Stephens, told The Associated Press that she happened to call him while he was working with Farook, and that he brought her into their debate, loudly 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.
Stephens said she didn’t sense any pending violence at the time, and it is not clear if their debates factored in the attack. Stephens said Thalasinos did not believe his co-worker would ever turn violent.
However, Stephens said his grieving wife told her later Thursday to tell the media that she now “believes her husband was martyred for his faith and beliefs.” It wasn’t immediately clear why Jennifer Thalasinos came to that conclusion.