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For victim’s boyfriend, 22 hours of conflicting reports, then heartbreak

Ryan Reyes mourning boyfriend, Daniel Kaufman

Ryan Reyes, 32, center, breaks down after finding out his boyfriend of nearly three years, Daniel Kaufman, 42, was one of those killed during Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Ryan Reyes dropped off his boyfriend, Daniel Kaufman, at work Wednesday at 7 a.m. and traded texts and photos with him throughout the morning.

“He was his usual cheerful, chattering self,” Reyes said.

Kaufman, 42, ran the coffee shop in building 3 at the Inland Regional Center, training the developmentally disabled clients who worked there.

The last message from Kaufman arrived at 10:37 a.m. -- a picture of a friend he had met at a comic book conference.

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About an hour later, Reyes received a text from his sister: “Hey Ry does Daniel work at the Regional Center in Sb? Check the news.”

Reyes, 32, called his boyfriend repeatedly but kept getting sent to voicemail.

“Call me ASAP!” he texted. There was no reply.

The next 22 hours were a slow torture, as Reyes and his family received conflicting reports about his boyfriend’s fate. In the end, they learned that Kaufman was among the 14 killed at the regional center. 

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Kaufman’s employer, a contractor for the center, hadn’t been able to reach him either.

When Reyes heard that survivors were being brought to a local community center, he rushed there and waited.

A few hours later, around 4 p.m., Reyes got good news. His cousin had posted on Facebook that Kaufman was alive. He had been shot in the arm but would survive -- at least that is the information she had received from the girlfriend of one of Kaufman’s disabled clients.

Officials at the community center confirmed a similar story to Reyes’ uncle, Greg Johnson. Kaufman was in surgery and out of danger, but nobody could tell the family which hospital.

Relatives and friends started calling, six hospitals in all. Reyes drove to the Loma Linda University Medical Center. Kaufman wasn’t there either.

“All the hospitals said they didn’t have him,” Reyes said.

Back at the community center, buses had been arriving all evening, unloading traumatized survivors of the attack, who filed into a gymnasium.

Kaufman wasn’t there and no more buses were coming.

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“We were the last family there,” said Reyes’ aunt, Wanda Clemmons.

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Officials told Reyes that the bodies of the dead were still at the crime scene and said they needed a physical description.

Just under 6 feet tall and around 195 pounds, Reyes said. Black dress shoes with square toes. Khakis. A black polo shirt -- the uniform for Coffee N More. No tattoos. Lots of rings and necklaces and one earring on each side-- rainbow bars for gay pride.

Reyes took four over-the-counter sleeping pills and fell asleep well after midnight. He still didn’t know. 

The couple -- who considered themselves free spirits and shared a love of horror movies -- had been together for nearly three years. Reyes said Kaufman engaged everybody he met in conversation, often holding up the grocery store check-out line. He refused to get a driver’s license, saying he didn’t want to give up the daily rides to and from work with Reyes.

Kaufman, who was adopted by an aunt and uncle after his parents died, spent much of his childhood in Pasadena but moved to Rialto during high school. 

He had worked at the social services center for about five years.

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Thursday morning at Reyes’ house in Rialto, where he lives with his parents, he waited for news. A Christmas tree stood in the doorway.

Reyes had lost two close friends to disease in 2011 and 2012.

“I’m so emotionally drained right now,” he said. “I don’t know if I want to scream, cry or break a window.”

“I’m trying to cling to hope.”

But then, at 10:38 Thursday morning, Reyes’ cellphone rang. It was the aunt who had adopted Kaufman.

He was gone.

Reyes huddled in the kitchen with his aunt and mother, Patricia. They wept together as the television news of the shooting played in the background.

Twitter: @AlanZarembo

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