It’s one year Friday since Southern California and the world were shocked by the terrorist killings of 14 people by a married couple in San Bernardino, but the anniversary is still difficult for friends and families of the victims despite the passage of time.
A Riverside County official says memories of a lifelong friend and colleague killed in the terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center are flooding back in connection with the massacre’s anniversary.
“It’s bringing up a lot of stuff,” Department of Environmental Health Director Steve Van Stockum told City News Service this week. “I’ve seen some videos online (commemorating the occasion) that are bringing back a lot of things.”
Van Stockum’s grade school pal — and later co-worker — 58-year-old Damian Meins was among the 14 people slain on Dec. 2, 2015, when jihadi terrorists Sayeed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went on a killing spree at the IRC. More than 20 people were wounded in the attack.
Farook worked as an environmental health inspector for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, where Meins had come out of retirement to accept a managerial position. The Riverside father of two adult daughters had spent nearly 30 years at the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, retiring in 2010.
Meins was gunned down in his office with the other victims following a Christmas party.
“Damian was a very giving, caring person,” Van Stockum told CNS. “He touched a lot of lives. Family and friends loved him dearly. He is definitely missed.”
Van Stockum’s daughter will be marrying on Sunday and intends to pay tribute to Meins during the wedding, according to Van Stockum, who is godfather to Meins’ daughter Tina.
Farook and Malik pledged allegiance to Islamic State around the time of the attack, according to the FBI. Both were killed in a gun battle with police on Tippecanoe Street in San Bernardino about three hours after the massacre.
Just over two weeks after the slayings, Farook’s former neighbor and confidant, 24-year-old Enrique Marquez Jr. of Riverside, was federally charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists for allegedly supplying the two terrorists with the semiautomatic rifles they used to carry out the attack. Marquez’s trial is slated for March.
In a related investigation, Farook’s older brother, Syed Raheel Farook was indicted along with his wife, Tatiana Farook, and her sister, Mariya Chernykh, with immigration fraud and other charges for arranging a sham marriage with Marquez that enabled the Russian woman to remain in the United States. Their trial is also set for March.
According to published reports, nine commemorative events are scheduled Friday in the Inland Empire — most of them in San Bernardino County — to honor victims of the Dec. 2, 2015, terrorist attack. Van Stockum said that he may attend at least one of them, though either way, he’ll be thinking of his friend.
“Things come up that prompt me to remember Damian, almost daily,” he said. “Some days are better than others.”
— City News Service
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