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San Bernardino victim was upfront about politics and religion -- with Farook too

San Bernardino victim was upfront about politics and religion -- with Farook too
Nicholas Thalasinos, who was one of 14 people killed in a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, with his wife, Jennifer. (Courtesy of Jennifer Thalasinos)

Nicholas Thalasinos, who died Wednesday in the San Bernardino shooting rampage that killed 14, was absolutely upfront about his religious and political leanings. And they could be harsh.

His Facebook page and Twitter feed were full of political opinions about radical Islam, President Obama, the Iraq nuclear agreement and gun control.

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He was a Messianic Jew, which means he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and a passionate defender of Israel. According to his wife, Jennifer Thalasinos, he was not shy about proselytizing, or criticizing Islam, even to Muslim co-worker Syed Rizwan Farook, who has been identified as one of the shooters.

"He just wanted to evangelize to everybody, and that's what he did," Jennifer Thalasinos told CNN.  "I'm sure they would have had discussions about religion because my husband would discuss religion with anyone that would listen."

Indeed, two weeks before the rampage at the Inland Regional Center, a friend of Thalasinos overheard him having a discussion about Islam with Farook.

Kuuleme Stephens said she called Thalasinos during his lunch break, and when he picked up the phone she could hear him in conversation with someone else.

The other person was Farook, a fellow health inspector. The men were discussing politics, religion and Islam.

She said Thalasinos told her that "Syed did not believe Islam was not a peaceful religion."

The conversation, said Stephens, was "nothing out of the ordinary. It was like an everyday conversation. It didn't set off any bells or whistles for me."  And yet she said her friend told her that "he didn't know what to do to get through to [Farook] and how to talk to him."

She said Thalasinos never mentioned Farook's name before that call and that he had not expressed any concerns about Farook hurting him or anyone else.

"Nicholas was a very caring person," Stephens said. "He would help anybody if they needed."

Stephens said she met Thalasinos about five years ago on Facebook and the Last Civil Right, a website for conservative African Americans. They shared the same political views, she said, and spoke frequently by phone. Thalasinos, Stephens said, called her his "sister."

She said it was not unusual for Thalasinos to have spirited discussions with his co-workers about politics and religion. "He always kept the door open for discussion."

Authorities are now investigating the attack at the social services center as an act of terrorism. But they have also said witnesses reported a tense exchange Wednesday at a holiday luncheon for the county health department before Farook left and returned with his wife, Tashfeen Malik. The couple fired assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols to kill 14 people, including the 52-year-old Nicholas Thalasinos.

Some conservative news outlets, including Red State and Brietbart, have slammed mainstream outlets for asking Jennifer Thalasinos questions implying that her husband was involved in an encounter that may have set off Farook.

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It's not clear whom Farook argued with before leaving the party.

On Thursday, friends and family posted loving messages on his Facebook page. Diane Jakopovic wrote that she was a longtime friend who met him online and bonded over shared political beliefs.

"However, he was also very religious, often citing Scripture," she said. "I never really knew much about him; I used to accept everyone as my friend, but I liked his comments. He was inspiring. He understood that there is a lot of evil happening in this world."

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA

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