AZUSA (CBSLA.com) — The family of one victim of the San Bernardino massacre want one thing to be clear.
Juan Espinoza’s family told CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen they want Espinoza to be remembered for being much more than a victim.
The family showed Nguyen a picture they said captured 50-year-old Juan best — sitting in his backyard, surrounded by trees he carefully nurtured.
“A little piece of Mexico in his yard because he brings trees from there also,” said his niece Zhenia Ponce De Leon.
Her uncle was a county health inspector.
“He loved his job,” she said.
He also loved his two kids and his wife Sandra.
The couple — along with their daughter — immigrated to the United States when he was in early 20s.
“He always told us, ‘Go to school. Go to school because it’s the best thing. Even if you are older, it doesn’t matter'”, De Leon said.
That’s exactly what Espinoza did. Relatives said he put himself through school while working for the department of corrections before becoming a biologist.
That led to his working with the county – where he worked with Syed Farook, the accused murderer.
“Actually, he trained that guy,” says De Leon.
Espinoza was the youngest of 12 children.
He was known for being camera shy — the family says in many pictures, you can find him in the background.
But he also stood out, by, they said, always setting an example – by succeeding as an immigrant who grew up on his mother’s farm.
The niece doesn’t mince words when it comes to what the loss of Espinoza will mean to her family.
“They destroyed our life. That’s the only word that I have because they don’t destroy one life. They destroy a bunch,” De Leon said.
His family is now busy planning his funeral and getting the paperwork necessary to bring his brothers and sisters to the US for the service.