The mass shooting in San Bernardino at a county health department party hit home in Cape May County, where one of the victims, Nicholas Thalasinos, had been a health inspector more than a decade ago, a friend said.
"We found out this morning. looking on Facebook," said Ed Beck, a construction official in the city of Linwood whose wife was a co-worker of Thalasinos's at the Cape May County Department of Health. "We were talking about it, saying I hope Nick was ok, not knowing. It's always one of those deals, you know how big San Bernardino is, he's probably ok."
The day before the shootings, Thalasinos had posted about a threat he had received that included the words "you will die and never see Israel." Authorities have not released any motive for the shooting, or suggested an intended target. Thalasnos was a Messianic Jew and posted frequently about Israel and politics. His posts included several that compared Muslims to Nazis.
Beck said his wife, Barb, who still works as a Cape May health inspector, had just spoken to Thalasinos on Sunday regarding cancer surgery.
"He was a wonderful friend," Beck said. "He worked in Cape May County as a health inspector and went out to California and was doing the same work there."
Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said Thalasinos worked as an environmental health inspector from 1988 to 2002. "He was with us for 14 years," Thornton said. "He would go out and inspect the restaurants and facilities. I knew Nick for a period of years from teh health department. He was a hard working dedicated employee. He was an average Joe working guy, really cared for his family, spoke highly of his kids. I was somewhat shocked."
Thalasinos had two adult sons and had lived in Middle Township when he was in Cape May County, Beck said. The target of the shooting being a county health department party, and the victim being a former co-worker, was deeply unsettling.
"They were coworkers for a very long time," Beck said. "I'm sure she wasn't taking it too well today. We had just spoken with him Sunday. He was a really nice guy, focused on what he was doing, good work ethic."
Thalasinos's Facebook page was filled with mourning postings from his community of online friends, many of whom remembered him for active postings about Israel and other political topics and for their connections as Messianic Jews. He was active in a pro-life group, and referred to as a "prolife warrior" and "great Patriot." His Facebook bio says he studied conservatism at the "Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies." There are numerous posts about Obama and the threat to Israel, and about Muslim terrorist attacks against Christians.
His last post, as captured by a Facebook friend, described a message he had gotten from a Facebook member called "Med Ali Zarouk" who told him "you will never sucsseed (sic) to make a country for jews ... soon you'll get your a-- kicked, you will die and never see Israel as country believe me never."
Thalasinos wrote on Facebook that he had blocked Zarouk, whom he called an "anti-semitic brain surgeon" and others he described as "pagan antisemitic troglodytes."
Law enforcement authorities have identified the shooters, killed in a shootout with police, as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They have not disclosed a motive for the shooting.
Beck said he believed Thalasinos had moved to California to be with his wife, Jennifer. "I know he was corresponding with his current wife," Beck said. "I think the reason [he moved] was to go out to be with her."
Thalasinos' friend, Kuuleme Stephens, told The Associated Press that she happened to call him while he was working with Farook and that he brought her into their debate, declaring that Farook "doesn't agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion."
Jennifer Thalasinos told the New York Times that her husband was friendly with Farook and given her no indication that anything was amiss with Farook.
“My husband was very outspoken about ISIS and all of these radicalized Muslims,” she told the Times. “If he would’ve thought that somebody in his office was like that, he would’ve said something.”
According to a Go Fund Me page set up for the victim's wife, the two met in an online chat room for fans of the TV show "Beauty and the Beast". They shared their love for science fiction and fantasy and had a very deep, spiritual relationship," the page says.
Thornton, in Cape May County, said Thalasinos was active in the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in North Wildwood while living in New Jersey. He said the county would be looking to ramp up security at offices in the wake of the recent mass shootings, and has already adding armed guards at the Atlantic Cape Community College campuses.
"We are definitely going to address that," he said. "I know it's going to be expensive and have an impact on the tax rate. We don’t have a choice here."