“He was his usual cheerful, chattering self.”
That’s what Ryan Reyes remembers when he dropped his boyfriend Daniel Kaufman off at work on Wednesday, around 7 a.m.
All through the morning, they traded texts and photos.
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42-year-old Kaufman ran the coffee-shop in building 3 at the Inland Regional Center, training the developmentally disabled clients who worked there.
The last message Reyes received was at 10:37 a.m., and it was a picture of a friend he’d met at a comic book conference.
An hour later, Reyes got a text from his sister: “Hey Ry does Daniel work at the Regional Center in Sb? Check the news.”
He called Kaufman repeatedly.
He kept being sent to voicemail.
“Call me ASAP!” he texted.
Twenty-two hours passed as slowly as possible. The worst kind of torture.
Conflicting reports about his boyfriend’s fate kept surfacing.
Finally, the awful truth.
He was among 14 people murdered on Wednesday at the regional center.
Or perhaps not.
Hours later, around 4pm, Reyes’ cousin posted on Facebook that Kaufman was alive.
Wounded. Shot in the arm. But alive.
That’s the word he heard right from his girlfriend; one of Kaufman’s disabled clients.
Officials at the community center had a similar story:
Kaufman was in surgery, and totally safe.
No one knew what hospital.
More phone calls. Visits to six hospitals.
None of them had him.
At the community center where survivors congregated, buses arrived all night, issuing shell-shocked survivors into the gym.
Kaufman wasn’t among them.
Kaufman wasn’t there and no more buses were coming.
Reyes’ aunt, Wanda Clemmons, says, “We were the last family there.”
Oficers told Reyes that the bodies of the dead were still at the crime scene. They would need a physical description of the man.
He was a little under 6′.
Roughly 195 pounds.
Reyes remembered he was in black dress shoes. Square toes. Khaki pants. Black polo shirt. The coffeeshop’s uniform.
No, no tattoos. But lots of rings, necklaces.
Both ears were pierced. That was something. Rainbow bars for gay pride on either side.
Reyes swallowed sleeping pills — four — and finally, somehow, fell asleep well after midnight.
He fell asleep in the worst kind of uncertainty.
The two men shared a love of horror films. They’d been together for almost three years.
Kaufman was masterful at engaging in conversation, meeting people. Even holding up the check-out line at the grocery store.
He never got a driver’s license. Why would he? That would mean giving up the daily rides to and from work with Reyes.
After his parents died, Kaufman was adopted by his aunt and uncle. He lived in Pasadena for most of his childhood, but moved to Rialto during high school.
For the last five years, he’d worked at the social serves center.
Reyes waited for news the next morning at his house in Rialto.
“I don’t know if I want to scream, cry or break a window,” he said. “I’m trying to cling to hope.”
Then at 10:30 Thursday morning, the cellphone rang.
It was the aunt who’d adopted Kaufman.
He was dead.