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'I Was In Denial,' Colleague Of San Bernardino, Calif., Shooter Says


We are learning more today about the victims of Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Fourteen people were killed when a husband and wife opened fire at an event for the San Bernardino County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health. The husband, Syed Farook, was a health inspector there and so were many of his victims. Elizabeth Aguilera of member station KPCC has learned more about these people from one of their colleagues.

Elizabeth, tell us who you spoke with.

ELIZABETH AGUILERA, BYLINE: I spoke with Jenni Kosse. She's a long-time receptionist at San Bernardino County. She worked in Environmental Health for more than two decades before transferring to another county division in 2013, but she kept in touch with all her friends from Environmental Health, and she regularly saw them because many worked in the same building as she does.

MCEVERS: She's the receptionist so surely she got to know a lot of these people, yeah.

AGUILERA: She did, especially because she worked with them for so long. She described them as a really tight-knit group, people who would do anything to help each other out. She described someone who was killed, Robert Adams, as one of her best friends, and she worked with him for more than 10 years and she watched him grow up in a way. They were really close, and she was very emotional remembering her friend. Here's what she said.

JENNI KOSSE: He wanted a family so bad, and when they finally got pregnant, he ran up to me and hugged me and he said, we did it, we did it. He loves that little girl so much.

MCEVERS: Sounds like it was not an easy day for her.

AGUILERA: No, it wasn't. She was talking about all of her friends, including Isaac Amanios. He had come from Ethiopia years ago and worked hard to bring his kids and his wife here once he became a citizen. Kosse talked about another victim who was a friend, Juan Espinoza, and she told me a story about how he helped her by taking home some of her plants and nursing them after the plants were booted from the office - you know, one of those new office rules about only having one plant - and she said every time she saw him, he would assure her that the plants were doing great. And then she had this to say about another of the victims, Tin Nguyen.

KOSSE: She could be very quiet as a mouse, and she could be very hyper. The last time I saw her, she hopped up, ran over, gave me a hug and showed me her engagement ring.

MCEVERS: And what'd she have to say about Syed Farook, the man who authorities say came with his wife to shoot these people?

AGUILERA: She remembered him as quiet but always helpful to her, especially when she needed to move things around the office. She says she was shocked when she heard about his involvement.

KOSSE: I was in denial of that for several hours, when someone else who no longer works there told me it was him, and I said, no, no, I think you're wrong. Couldn't have been him.

MCEVERS: As you said, Jenni Kosse doesn't work in the Division of Environmental Health anymore, but did she know about the type of event that they were having, the event where the shooting happened?

AGUILERA: She did. She said this was an annual gathering of the department. So they would go over the work that was done this year, look ahead to the next year. They would give out pins for years of service and recognize employees for special work. And then afterwards, for lunch, management would provide a main dish, but everyone would bring a dish to share. It was a potluck. And she says the people who died, the ones that she knew, they tragically must have all been in one place.

KOSSE: I think what happened is, they may have all been sitting at the first table together. They always did that. They always sat together.

MCEVERS: Elizabeth Aguilera of KPCC, thank you for sharing what you learned from Jenni Kosse.

AGUILERA: Thank you Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Aguilera