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Friend Of San Bernardino Shooting Victim Recalls Heated Conversation About Islam

SAN BERNARDINO ( — A friend says a man who was killed in the rampage at a Southern California social service center worked with one of the shooters and they had a heated conversation about Islam two weeks before the attack.

It's not clear if the discussion was a factor in the attack.

Kuuleme Stephens told the Associated Press she happened to call 52-year-old Nicholas Thalasinos while he was at work and having a discussion with Syed Farook.

Syed Rizwan Farook
(Photo courtesy DMV)

Thalasinos identified Farook by name and told her Farook believed Islam was a peaceful religion.

She added that Farook said Americans don't understand Islam.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: San Bernardino Shooting

Stephens says both men worked as county restaurant inspectors and regularly discussed politics and religion. Thalasinos identified as a Messianic Jew and was passionate about pro-Israel causes.

Thalasinos' wife, Jennifer Thalasinos, told The New York Times that her husband had talked about Farook but never said anything negative.

The report comes as Southland religious leaders gathered Thursday with public and police officials to issue a call for people to avoid reacting to the mass shooting in San Bernardino by lashing out or condemning any religious or ethnic groups.

Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church in Pasadena joined with other faith leaders and public officials at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Muslim Public Affairs Council to not only offer prayers and support for the victims of Wednesday's shooting, but to also call for the community to come together.

"Peace and justice will simply not descend from above," said Bacon. "Peace and justice comes as a result of people working in partnership and organizing across interfaith lines to say we will work for justice and we will work for peace."

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing, head of the department's anti-terrorism efforts, also took part in the rally and said the shooting should also be a reminder that everyone needs to remain vigilant and speak up if they see
activity that could be considered suspicious.

"We need the community's help in any type of suspicious behavior they observe," he said, stressing that such reporting is "not about stereotyping people," it's about "the behavior they're involved in."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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