For 22 gut-wrenching hours, Ryan Reyes held on to hope that the love of his life was not one of the people killed in the San Bernardino shooting.
His boyfriend Daniel Kaufman, 42 worked at the Inland Regional Center where police say a married couple opened fire, killing 14 people and wounding at least 21 more. But in the chaotic and confusing aftermath of the shooting, Reyes said, his boyfriend’s colleagues thought Kaufman was injured but alive.
“I was told he was shot in the arm and that he was OK at the hospital,” Reyes, 32, told TIME on Thursday. “They told me he was in surgery, but that he was OK. We went to all the hospitals and no one had him. That was when all our hopes were dashed.”
A representative from the local coroner’s office confirmed Reyes’ fears Thursday morning by showing up to Kaufman’s house, where he had lived with his aunt and uncle. Kaufman’s aunt immediately called Reyes to break the news.
“As soon as I heard that, I immediately started tearing,” he said.“I don’t think I really said much, other than, ‘Thank you.’ As soon as I hung up the phone, I was in hysterics.
“All I could feel was anguish,” he added. “There was no other thought really going through my head other than, ‘No.’”
The couple, who met online, would have been dating for three years in January. They were inseparable, said Reyes, who drove his boyfriend to work at the center every day.
“We talked about moving in together at some point when we had the funding to do so and just living a happy life together,” he said. “It would be fine if we were in a cardboard box in an alley. As long as we’re together, it would have been fine.”
Kaufman provided job training services at the center, which helps developmentally disabled people. He wasn’t believed to be inside the conference room when the suspects opened fire on county health workers celebrating at a holiday party, Reyes said. Kaufman was a creative soul who often gave friends and family pieces of handmade jewelry, his boyfriend said.
“Right now, I’m OK, but I know that later it won’t be that way,” Reyes said. “It’s surreal. Yes, it’s been confirmed. But it still hasn’t sunken in yet. I’m a little numb right now.”