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Man Taps Experience With Gun Violence to Comfort Victims' Families

People pray at a makeshift memorial to honor the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage, Dec. 5, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif.
People pray at a makeshift memorial to honor the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage, Dec. 5, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif.

Diamond Mendez feels it is important to show his support to the victims of the San Bernardino mass shooting, in part because of his own family history.

"My father was murdered when I was three in Las Vegas," he said. "My grandmother was taken from me. Three years ago my cousin Keith Lawrence and Monica Quan were murdered by Chris Dorner."

The 2013 manhunt for Dorner in southern California dominated news headlines. In an act of retaliation after he was fired by the Los Angeles Police Department, 33-year-old Dorner ambushed Mendez's cousin Lawrence and his fiancé Quan, who was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain. Dorner later died in a standoff with law enforcement.

When the San Bernardino shootings unfolded on December 2, Mendez recalled it was just one day shy of the 22nd anniversary of the burglary gone wrong that ultimately claimed the life of his father, Tracy Lee Lawrence.

"He didn't die because of the bullets, he died because of a blood clot on Christmas Day weeks later," Mendez said. "So they attempted to kill my father, but I knew God had a reason he didn't go down on the spot because he reconciled with us."

As Mendez watched the events in San Bernardino unfold on TV, he began to wonder if the victims had the opportunity his own father had in the final moments of his life.

"Did they have time to reconcile? Did they go to work upset?" he wondered. "Many people don't realize if this is going to be their last day or not."

Which is what brought Mendez to the expanding makeshift memorial for the victims, and survivors, of San Bernardino's tragedy.

He said he came to listen, to pray, but most importantly to let those suffering know he is someone who intimately understands their grief.

"When something like this happens, and families lose their loved ones, they don't feel it right away," he said. "I know they don't. It's like a breath being taken from you. The minute it settles in, that's when you have to come in and not be a peacemaker but show that there is peace in front of this."

His advice to those enduring the intense grief in the wake of these attacks comes from a place of understanding.

"This will get better only because there's joy that comes in the mourning, and I'm not talking about darkness and daylight, but the mourning, the shedding of tears so… it's OK to remember them and mourn, but there will come love and peace from it."

A peace that the victims, and the community of San Bernardino, still search for six days after the event that transformed their community.