Crime & Justice

San Bernardino shooting update: Friend of victim says heated exchange on Islam took place before rampage

San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 during an active shooter situation following a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 during an active shooter situation following a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A friend of a man who was killed during Wednesday's attack said she witnessed a fight between him and one of the attackers over religion.

Kuuleme Stephens told the Associated Press she overheard Farook and coworker Nicholas Thalasinos arguing over Islam when she called two weeks before the attack. 

Thalasinos' wife Jennifer Thalasinos told KPCC her husband was outspoken about radical Islam. She said her husband "did have a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment."

"But again, he did get along with the person who caused all of this. He had friends who were Muslim," she said. "He was very outspoken about how he felt. ... He was anti-Muslim in the whole scheme of things just because everything has been so out of control with ISIS and Al-Qaeda and their anti-Semitic sentiment and with my husband being a Messianic Jew, that was a big issue with him."

The Associated Press reports: 

Kuuleme Stephens says she happened to call 52-year-old Nicholas Thalasinos while he was at work and having a discussion with Syed Farook.

Thalasinos identified Farook by name and told her Farook believed Islam was a peaceful religion.

She added that Farook said Americans don't understand Islam.

Stephens says 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.

AP cautioned that it's not yet clear if the argument had anything to do with the attack, but at a press conference Thursday, San Bernardino Police Chief Burguan reported at least one witness said Farook had left the holiday gathering upset after some kind of dispute. Investigators have also been clear that they have found no motive yet for the attack. 

A Facebook page that Jennifer Thalasinos confirmed belonged to her husband featured several images related to Messianic Judaism and at least one that appeared to be critical of Muslims. 

That image shows a picture of what appears to be someone falling out of the World Trade Center during 9/11, superimposed with the following words "On behalf of this guy, his co-workers, the fire fighters on scene, the passengers on the planes, their families & the majority of Americans on the street, You can stick your Million Muslim March up your [a**es]."

Facebook post

You can read more about Thalasinos and the other victims here.