San Bernardino Shooter Syed Farook Clashed With Jewish Co-Worker Nicholas Thalasinos Over Religion, Was Teased About His Long Islamic Beard

While police investigators search for a motive in the San Bernardino mass shooting, the family of the U.S.-born shooter Syed Farook, 28, has made the claim that he was teased by workmates over his long Islamic beard and had multiple heated disputes with a Jewish co-worker.

Lawyers representing the Farook family revealed that members of Farook's family -- who spoke with FBI interrogators -- said some of his colleagues at work had teased him and made disparaging remarks about his Muslim beard. The lawyers also revealed that on multiple occasions before the shooting, Farook had been involved in heated discussions about religion and politics with a Jewish co-worker.

Two weeks before the shooting, Farook reportedly had a dispute with Nicholas Thalasinos, a fellow restaurant health inspector who described himself on his Facebook page as a Messianic Jew.

Police authorities named Thalasinos as one of the 14 victims in the December 2 mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Kuuleme Stephens, a coworker and friend of Thalasinos, said she had called Thalasinos about two weeks before the shooting while he was at work, and while talking with Thalasinos on the phone, she heard him debating politics and religion with Farook.

Thalasinos reportedly objected strongly to Farook's claim that Islam was a peaceful religion. Kuuleme Stephens said she heard Thalasinos complaining that Farook "doesn't agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion."

"I don't know how to talk with him [Farook]," Thalasinos added.

Farook reportedly responded, saying that Americans just don't understand Islam.

Thalasinos was an ardent Zionist who often posted harsh anti-Islamic and anti-Obama comments to his Facebook and Twitter pages. A September 11, 2013 post included an image showing a victim of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center with a caption, "On behalf of this guy... You can stick you Million Muslim March up your asses."

On the day before he was shot and killed in the San Bernardino mass shooting, he exchanged words with an angry Muslim purportedly from Ukraine with the Facebook username "Med Ali Zarouk," who appeared to issue a death threat.

"You will never succeed [sic] to make a country for Jews because you are criminals and cowards," Med Ali Zarouk wrote. "Soon you'll get your ass kicked [and] you will die and never see Israel as country believes me never."

"Soon you'll get your ass kicked [and] you will die and never see Israel as country believes me never."
"Anyway my new hobby appears to be blocking pagan anti-Semitic troglodytes. So I'm just passing this along to warn others." Thalasinos responded.Thalasinos wife, Jennifer, told The New York Post that her late husband may have had an altercation with Farook at the Inland Regional Center holiday party on Wednesday before Farook left in anger and returned with his wife to commit the deadly shooting rampage.

But according to lawyers of the Farook family, the San Bernardino shooter had simply ignored disparaging remarks by co-workers about his long Islamic beard, and his family was unable to understand why he suddenly went berserk on Wednesday, shooting 14 people – including co-workers -- to death and injuring about 21.

Although it is uncertain whether the teasing remarks and disputes with Thalasinos played any role in triggering Farook's murderous rampage, it is conceivable that differences with workplace colleagues contributed to fueling anger that resulted in the shooting, and that the death of Thalasinos in the shooting was not incidental.

According to David Chesly, the Farook family lawyer, "Both the sisters and the brothers as they went through the information today, there was one silly thing that came up - that some of his co-workers at some point made remarks about his beard. But it so slight and no-one has ever stated that he has ever acted in a hostile or a violent way towards anyone. They were a very polite, conservative married couple."

Chesly's colleague, Mohammad Abuershaid, said, "There is no indication that he was involved with anybody physically. All we know is that there were a couple of situations with people who might have teased him about his facial hair."

FBI Personnel At The Redlands Home Of The Mass Shooters
FBI Personnel At The Redlands Home Of Syed Farook And His Wife Tashfeen Malik (Photo By Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)

"There's no indication he had a short temper," he added. "It was people just teasing him about his facial hair and how he looked. He had a long beard and a very short trimmed haircut. It was just basic comments but he used to brush them off pretty easily."

"There was nothing to show that he (Farook) was connected to a terror group yet. He was working for the city, he had a full-time job, he was getting his masters, he was married. His brother was enrolled in the Navy, he served overseas. They were living the American dream. They were born and raised in Chicago, they came over to California and they all started having families," the lawyer concluded.

Making a reference to the recent Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic shooting, Chesley said, "Those are the acts of mad people, they don't represent a religion. It's important for everyone to know that the family was as surprised as anyone. They could not imagine their own brother as having done anything like this."

Chesley appeared to raise questions about the involvement of Tashfeen Malik -- Farook's Pakistani wife -- in the shooting as reported by the police and FBI.

"There have been suggestions that it may be something that was related to their work, that somehow he was a disgruntled employee. But it doesn't seem plausible to us that this petite woman [Tashfeen Malik] would be involved in this sort of hyper-caricatured, Bonnie and Clyde crazy scenario."
San Bernardino Shooting
Law Enforcement Stand By The Ford SUV Driven By The Mass Shooter Couple (Photo By Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

He continued with a reference to the Sandy Hook massacre that echoed conspiracy theory rumors about the December 2012 shooting, saying, "There was a lot of questions drawn with Sandy Hook and whether or not that was a real incident or not. But I mean obviously these things were found there, how they got there we don't know."

When asked to clarify his reference to the Sandy Hook massacre, he said, "There are a lot of people that said it happened but hasn't happened in the way that it was purported to have taken place."

Police said Farook travelled to Saudi Arabia in the spring and returned with Tashfeen Malik as his wife on a 90-day K-1 fiancée visa. Malik reportedly passed counterterrorism screening by the authorities.

It has also emerged that the mass shooter's older brother, Syed Raheel Farook, is a Navy veteran who has been honored for his role in the fight against terrorism. He served in the Navy as an information systems technician on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise from 2003 to 2007.

Other members of the Farook family include the 66-year-old father of the family Syed and his wife Rafia, 62. The couple's eldest daughter, Saira, is married to Farhan Khan, 41. The youngest member of the family is daughter Eba, 24.

The FBI held Rafia briefly for questioning.

According to Chesley, Rafia "was picked up in a traffic stop... and taken into custody. They brought her in for questioning and basically held her into the night and said we are not going to let her go unless the rest of the family comes in for questioning."

FBI investigators recovered about 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs and IED components from the couple's home in Redlands, about 15 minutes drive from San Bernardino.

Investigators also revealed that Farook had been in touch on social media with some individuals on the FBI terror watch list.

[Photo By Damian Dovarganes/AP]