Benetta Betbadal came to the United States to get away from violent religious persecution. The Christian Assyrian-American was among the 14 victims killed in Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, her family said.
When she was 18, Betbadal fled to America to “escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians that followed the Iranian Revolution,” according to a fundraising page set up to help her family. An inspector for the San Bernardino County Health Department, Betbadal was at the Inland Regional Center Wednesday to give a presentation to her colleagues at their annual meeting. But by the end of the day, she was one of the 14 people killed in the mass shooting there.
As with many of the victims, a Gofundme page has been set up to collect donations what will benefit her family. The page had raised more than $31,000 as of Friday morning.
The 46-year-old Betbadal lived in Rialto with her husband Arlen Verdehyou, a police officer at Riverside Community College, and their three children, ages 10, 12 and 15. She initially settled in New York City before moving to California and graduating from Cal Poly, Pomona, with a degree in chemistry, the Gofundme page said.
“She loved her job, her community, and her country,” the page read. "Her greatest love, however, was for her husband, her children, and her large extended family.”
Verdehyou told the Daily Breeze of Torrance that he and his wife exchanged text messages at 8 a.m. Wednesday, before the shooting, according to the Associated Press. He told her he had withdrawn money from their bank account to go Christmas shopping. She recently decorated the family’s Christmas tree.
"Everything she touched bloomed," Verdehyou told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday.
Betbadal excelled at her job, her husband added: "She went above and beyond, even on her own time."
Betbadal was involved in the Assyrian Scouts, a group coordinated by the Boy Scouts and the Assyrian-American Association of Southern California, the group’s vice president told the Press Enterprise of Riverside.
The Assyrian-American Association of Southern California posted a message about Betbadal’s death on its Facebook page, and the post has received hundreds of responses, with many people saying they knew her.
"She was very active and very passionate about our children," Ramond Takhsh, vice president of the Assyrian group, told the Press Enterprise. He said Betbadal taught the Assyrian language and written script to scouts, among other activities.
"It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago," her family said in a statement.