San Bernardino Shooting Victims' Families to Attend Somber Meeting With President Obama

President Barack Obama will visit Friday with families of the 14 victims killed two weeks ago in a terrorist attack at a Southern California health center where co-workers of one of the shooters were celebrating the holidays.

Obama will arrive in San Bernardino Friday evening, adding the stop to a previously scheduled holiday trip to Honolulu, where he has vacationed every year since taking office. The president will conduct his year-end news conference ahead of the trip. No public appearance are planned in California.

In San Bernardino Friday night, he will encounter a group of families still planning and attending funerals for loved ones killed in a Dec. 2 mass shooting as they attended a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center. Some are just beginning to grapple with what happened while others have described being in a state of continued shock and exhaustion.

"It won't bring any closure to us," said Evelyn Godoy, whose sister-in-law, Aurora Godoy, the mother of a toddler, was killed in the attack. "But it's nice he's going to stop."

As they grieve, victims' families are learning more about the events that led up to the shooting and the husband and wife who carried out the massacre. Federal investigators said they pledged allegiance to the leader of Islamic State terror organization before executing the attack.

"Of course we have questions and we would like to know how and what happened," said Robel Tekleab, whose brother-in-law, Isaac Amanios, 60, was killed. "But that is for another time. Tomorrow is all about grieving together and comforting each other."

Amanios raised money for Obama's 2008 campaign even through the immigrant from Eritrea was still not eligible to vote, said Tekleab, who worked as a field staffer on the president's 2012 re-election campaign. Amanios even traveled to D.C. to attend Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Tekleab said he wants Obama to know more about his brother-in-law.

"His presence itself is comforting," he said.

Godoy said she didn't know what her family was hoping to hear from Obama. On the one hand, his visit felt like a nice gesture. On the other, when she read in the news that he was stopping on his way to Hawaii for his vacation she couldn't help but feel "like we were a throw in."

"At the end of the day my sister-in-law isn't coming back," she said. "It doesn't bring her back."

The president's visit comes a day before services for two victims, Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, and Michael Wetzel, 37.

On Thursday, the first criminal charges stemming from the mass shooting were brought against Enrique Marquez, friend and former neighbor of Farook. Marquez has been charged with three criminal counts, including conspiring with Farook in 2011 and 2012 to commit terrorism, illegally purchasing the two assault rifles used in the Dec. 2 attack and violating immigration law by entering into a sham marriage with one of Farook's family members, according to the Department of Justice.

Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, were killed hours after the shooting in a shootout with law enforcement agents. Federal authorities have said the pair had self-radicalized in the years before the mass shooting.

On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said there is no evidence that the couple posted publicly on social media about their commitment to jihad before Malik arrived in the United States in 2014 on a K-1, or fiancee visa. The clarification was intended to address confusion over whether the husband and wife posted extremist messages publicly that could have been detected when Malik applied for a visa before coming to the United States.

All of Malik's statement in support of jihad were part of private messages or emails, Comey added. Those private social media posts were not discovered by authorities until after the mass shooting.

There also is no indication that the couple had direct contact with terror organizations, Comey said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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