Stories of those who died in the mass shooting in California (Part 2)

Yvette Velasco (Photo provided by George Velasco via AP)

(AP) — Most of the 14 people killed at a holiday banquet in San Bernardino County, Calif., worked in the same county public health department as the man who showed up with his wife and sprayed the hall with gunfire.

An official list was released Thursday:

  • Shannon Johnson, 45, Los Angeles (DOB: 03/06/70)
  • Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46, Rialto (DOB: 03/08/69)
  • Aurora Godoy, 26, San Jacinto (DOB: 02/01/89)
  • Isaac Amanios, 60, Fontana (DOB: 06/29/55)
  • Larry Kaufman, 42, Rialto (DOB: 08/12/73)
  • Harry Bowman, 46, Upland (DOB: 06/08/69)
  • Yvette Velasco, 27, Fontana (DOB: 04/03/88)
  • Sierra Clayborn, 27, Moreno Valley (DOB: 06/15/88)
  • Robert Adams, 40, Yucaipa (DOB: 05/02/75)
  • Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, Colton (DOB: 10/14/63)
  • Tin Nguyen, 31, Santa Ana (DOB: 04/06/84)
  • Juan Espinoza, 50, Highland (DOB: 06/24/65)
  • Damian Meins, 58, Riverside (DOB: 02/02/57)
  • Michael Wetzel, 37, Lake Arrowhead (DOB: 04/29/78)

san bernardino shooting victims gallery

More families, friends and co-workers are coming forward to share their stories. Click here to view Part 1.


Aurora Banales Godoy, 26, was married and the mother of an infant son, her aunt, Rebecca Godoy, said in Facebook post that linked to Godoy’s own page.

“Yesterday in the shootings in San Bernardino many families were affected. Ours was one of them,” Rebecca Godoy wrote. “We will keep her flame alive so that her young son does not forget his special mother.”

Cindy Quinones, a cousin of Godoy’s, said her husband was devastated by the death of his wife.

“I feel like numb. It hasn’t hit us yet. We’re still trying to make sense of all this,” Quinones said at a vigil held Thursday night in San Bernardino.

___

Yvette Velasco, 27, is being described by her family as smart, motivated and full of life.

In a statement, her relatives said she was “loved by all who knew her.”

“We are devastated about what happened and are still processing this nightmare,” the family said.

Velasco is survived by her parents and three sisters.

“Please pray for our family and the other families who have lost a loved one as a result of this terrible tragedy,” her relatives wrote.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Velasco’s relatives searched everywhere for her. Mindy Velasco, her aunt, called hospitals, police and evacuee centers in a harrowing search for information, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I’m fearing the worst,” she told the paper. “She would definitely be in contact after something like this.”

Elizabeth Faron, a friend of Velasco’s from college, remembered her friend as “amazing, very sweet, friendly and affectionate.”

___

Bennetta Betbadal, 46, was born in Iran in 1969 and came to the United States at age 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution, according to a family statement on a fundraising account set up in her name.

Her cousin, Melani Betbadal, referred reporters to the statement and declined further comment.

She first settled in New York City but eventually moved to Rialto, California. She and her husband, a police officer, were married in 1997 and have three children ages 10, 12 and 15.

Betbadal graduated from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona with a degree in chemistry and took a job as a health inspector with San Bernardino County.

Her husband, Arlen Verdehyou, told The Daily Breeze that he and his wife exchanged texts at 8 a.m. Wednesday. He told her that he had withdrawn money from the bank and would do some Christmas shopping. Betbadal had recently decorated the family’s Christmas tree.

She was planning to give a presentation at the annual holiday meeting Wednesday and was excited about it, the family said.

“It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago,” the family said in the statement.

___

Friends say Sierra Clayborn, 27, stood out as someone who always had an encouraging word.

Timothy J. Lee remembers meeting Clayborn in a hip-hop class at the University of California, Riverside. She was active and outgoing, praising classmates when they mastered a routine.

“She always had something encouraging to say,” Lee said.

After graduating in 2010, Clayborn worked jobs in retail and at a bank before landing a position at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. Like a number of other victims, she inspected restaurants.

Matthew Peairs, 27, a manager at Red Baron Pizza in Big Bear Lake, California, said Clayborn visited the restaurant a day before the shooting to complete an inspection.

“She was one of the nicest health inspectors that we’ve ever had,” he said. “She talked to us like normal people, not just doing her job.”

He said they discussed their holiday plans and she mentioned she was going to the department’s Christmas party Wednesday.

“She was stoked about the party,” Peairs said.

Word spread Wednesday among Clayborn’s friends that she was missing. FBI agents later visited her family’s house to tell them that she was killed in the attack.

“It’s definitely going to be different without her,” Lee said.

___

Robert Adams, 40, was a Yucaipa resident who worked as an environmental health specialist for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He met his wife when they were teenagers and the two became high school sweethearts before eventually getting married.

Before the tragedy, they were planning their 20-month-old daughter’s first trip to Disneyland next week.

“Our worst fears were confirmed today: our beloved Robert will not be coming home to us. He was a loving son, brother, husband and daddy to Savannah,” his family said in a statement Thursday.

Adams loved his job and considered his colleagues family, the statement said. His wife, Summer, also worked for the county.

A fundraising page for Summer and their daughter has raised more than $25,000.

Megan Neforos, who set up the page, said she knew Adams’ wife through a Facebook group for mothers of young children.

“He was her high school sweetheart. This is tragic for her,” she said. “He was an incredibly loving father and devoted husband.”

___

Shannon Johnson, 45, was the lone victim who lived in Los Angeles, a long commute to San Bernardino County where he worked as a health inspector.

He was remembered as having a great sense of humor and loving sports.

He rose before dawn every morning to get to his job from his home in Koreatown, which he shared with his girlfriend, Mandy Pfifer, who was a longtime member of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Crisis Response Team.

The mayor’s office said in a statement Thursday night that “we have learned that one of our own … is among those who lost their lives.”

Johnson grew up in Kentucky and played baseball at a college in Georgia, said his ex-wife Tina Johnson, who lives in South Carolina. She said they were married for six years in the 1990s.

He loved to watch sports and “had memorized all the stats,” she said.

He also loved to make people laugh.

“He had southern, down-home type of humor. It was not dry wit,” she said. “I don’t know how you describe country people’s humor, but we can make any situation funny. And he would.”

___

Harry Bowman, 46, loved the outdoors.

He worked as a statistical analyst for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, his family said.

The Upland resident is remembered as a loving father to his two daughters. The dedicated member of the Roman Catholic Church, who was raised in Pennsylvania, frequently taught religious classes. He also spent much of his free time hiking.

“This is a tragic loss for our family, much like it is for all families around the world who have experienced this kind of violence,” the family said in a statement. “There are no words that express our sadness in losing such a special person.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also released a statement offering his condolences to Bowman’s family after the “senseless violence.”

___

Juan Espinoza, 50, of Highland, was remembered by a former co-worker.

Scott Wyatt met Espinoza about 10 years ago when Wyatt worked in a juvenile court teacher and Espinoza was a corrections officer.

“He was a simple guy, quiet, a person who didn’t like attention, just liked to do what he had to do,” said Wyatt. “This hits close to home.”

According to media reports, Espinoza was a health inspector with San Bernardino County.

A Mexican federal official said Espinoza was born in Mexico and emigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. Mexican consular officials contacted Espinoza’s family anyway to offer assistance, but the family said none was needed at the moment. The official was not authorized to be quoted by name.

___

Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus in Anaheim, California; Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Mark Stevenson in Mexico City; Amy Taxin in Colton, California; and news researchers Rhonda Shafner, Barbara Sambriski and Adriana Mark contributed to this story. Drew reported from Raleigh, North Carolina and Lush from St. Petersburg, Florida.

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