They had gathered together to celebrate the holidays, many of them coworkers whose job was to keep their neighbors safe. Then, police said, another coworker at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health who'd left the gathering "angry" took their lives.
Less than two days later, we learned their names, and a picture began to emerge of the victims as people who lived to help others. Many were health inspectors, many were parents; one was even, apparently, the cousin of an NFL player.
"She was down to earth," Tin Nguyen's cousin, Tram Le, told NBC News. "Whenever you needed any help or struggled in life, she was always there for you. She always wanted all the family to get together. She brought happiness to everyone."
Mourners from across Southern California and beyond paid tribute to the 14 people who died in Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino. As families began to speak out about their lost loved ones on Thursday, the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office released the names of those killed in the attack.
Twelve of the victims worked for the Department of Public Health, according to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, who said at a news conference Thursday that the holiday party had also servedas a work training event. Most of the 21 people who were injured work for the county as well, he said.
The deceased are: Shannon Johnson, 45; Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46; Aurora Godoy, 26; Isaac Amanios, 60; Larry (Daniel) Kaufman, 42; Harry Bowman, 46; Yvette Velasco, 27; Sierra Clayborn, 27; Robert Adams, 40; Nicholas Thalasinos, 52; Tin Nguyen, 31; Juan Espinoza, 50; Damian Meins, 58; and Michael Wetzel, 37.
A vigil for the victims was held Thursday night at the San Manuel Stadium.
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"It shouldn't be this way," said Todd Goodin, of the Refuge Community Church, who came to the site of the shooting.
But he added a note of hope: "I know good can come out of all this."
'The Most Amazing Person'
Michael Wetzel was a father of six, his church confirmed on Thursday. According to a friend, three of the children were from Wetzel's previous marriage to a woman named Amy and two were from a prior relationship of his current wife, Renee. The couple also had one child together.
"Michael was the most amazing person," said his wife, Renee Wetzel, in a statement. "He was my best friend and incredible Father who was loved by all. I didn't know a better person. He loved his work and his family so very much. Without him, this family will never be the same. We appreciate all the love and support that everyone is showing. We ask that our privacy be respected during this terrible time."
Church of the Woods in Lake Arrowhead, California, has set up a page to assist the family, with whom Pastor Ron Akins spent the morning, according to a church spokeswoman. Another fundraising page established to help the Wetzel family has raised more than $40,000.
[NATL] Terror on the Streets of San Bernardino After Mass Shooting
Damien Meins was a "bright light" with a "warm smile and a hearty laugh," according to an email from Riverside County Transportation & Land Management Agency Director Juan C. Perez, NBC News reported.
According to Perez, Meins was a longtime employee of Riverside County who returned to work after retiring in 2010, and was "extinguished from our world in a most tragic way."
Victim Nicholas Thalasinos was identified by his wife, Jennifer, who said her husband was a Messianic Jew and her faith was strong. Jennifer said she knows her husband is in the arms of God. She noted that Thalasinos was very outspoken politically, and she felt he was a martyr for his faith.
"He evangelized to everybody so he had made friends with so many people," Jennifer Thalasinos said, according to NBC Philadelphia.
Tamishia Clayborn confirmed her sister, Sierra Clayborn, was also killed in Wednesday's attack. She was very upset and did not immediately want to talk.
New York Giants safety Nat Berhe said on Twitter that Isaac Amanios was his cousin, though the Giants didn't confirm the relationship.
"The true terror is that this keeps happening," Behre said. "I still can't believe it. Take a moment to think of the families hurting right now."
After a day of holding out hope, Ryan Reyes confirmed his boyfriend, Daniel Kaufman, was killed in the rampage. Reyes said he went to the community center seeking information about Kaufman and was initially told his boyfriend had been shot in the arm and was undergoing surgery. It turned out to be misinformation.
"It was confirmed that Daniel's body has been positively identified as being one of the casualties at the scene," he told NBC News on Thursday. "Everything that I was told yesterday was misinformation."
"Everyone in my family is devastated," said Reyes' uncle, Gregory Johnson, who joined Reyes in the search for Kaufman on Wednesday night. "Daniel was a good person that we all loved."
The shooting suspects were later killed in a shootout with police, and a federal investigation is probing what incited the massacre.
Crisis response experts from Los Angeles were at the disposal of San Bernardino County authorities Thursday following a massacre blamed on a couple with a connection to Saudi Arabia, and investigators examined whether international terrorism was a factor in the violence.
President Barack Obama said at the National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that the nation is thinking about the families of the victims.
"They should know that all of us care about them this holiday season. They're in our thoughts, they're in our prayers and we send them our love," he said.