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Friday, December 15, 2017

By Matt Hamilton and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — The widow of a man killed in last week’s rampage in San Bernardino said Monday that she believed the two shooters targeted her husband, and possibly other victims, because of their divergent religious beliefs.

Jennifer Thalasinos told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show Hannity that her husband was a devout Messianic Jew who often wore a Star of David tie clip.

Nicholas Thalasinos, one of the 14 killed in the massacre, worked at the County of San Bernardino’s health department alongside one of the assailants, Syed Rizwan Farook. Thalasinos’ wife said that they had “completely disagreed” on issues surrounding Israel.

Hannity asked her, “Do you believe that maybe your husband was the person targeted by these two people?”

“Yes I do,” Thalasinos replied. “I also think some of the other people that were killed were also intended targets because of their religious views and because of the discussions that they had had with the shooter.”

The two had talked about whether Islam was a religion of peace, she said. That her husband offered strong opinions on Middle Eastern politics and Islam was not unusual. The discussions, however, were not contentious, she said, and there were no signs that Farook had become radicalized.

“I know my husband discussed religion and Israel with a lot of people, including (Farook),” she said.

The FBI has not interviewed Thalasinos about her husband’s relationship with Farook, she said, but she anticipates speaking with federal agents in the coming days.

The interview with Thalasinos comes as federal officials said they are digging deep into the background of Farook and his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik. Authorities believe the two marched down the path of radical Islam and were inspired to carry out the rampage at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

The attacks left 14 dead and injured 21. Most, like Nicholas Thalasinos, were co-workers of Farook in the county’s health department.

A close friend recounted a particular conversation that she heard about Nicholas Thalasinos having with Farook about two weeks before the rampage.

Kuuleme Stephens said Thalasinos had called during his lunch break and explained that he and Farook were sparring over Israel’s role in the Middle East. Farook did not believe Israel belonged in the Mideast and that it was a Muslim homeland, Nicholas told her.

Thalasinos said that “he didn’t know what to do to get through to him and how to talk to him,” Stephens said.

Still, she recalled, that the conversation between Farook and Thalasinos was brief.

“It didn’t set off any bells or whistles for me,” Stephens said.

(Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.)

©2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: The memorial for the mass shooting victims in San Bernardino is growing larger by the minute, with mourners dropping-off candles and flowers at the corner of Waterman Avenue and Orange Show Drive Dec. 7, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)