Safe at home: San Bernardino native, now a Worthington resident, reflects on recent shooting

WORTHINGTON -- The Dec. 2 terrorist attack at an Inland Regional Center holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., hit much closer to home for Worthington resident Aaron Kinser than it did for many other people.That's because Kinser is a native of ...

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Aaron Kinser, an attorney at the Worthington law firm of Ahlquist & Wiltrout LLP, grew up in San Bernadino, Calif., and has worked locally since October 2013. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - The Dec. 2 terrorist attack at an Inland Regional Center holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., hit much closer to home for Worthington resident Aaron Kinser than it did for many other people.
That’s because Kinser is a native of San Bernardino, having graduated from high school there in 1999 and spent most of his youth exploring the city and surrounding region.
“I grew up in San Bernardino, and my mother lived there for most of her growing up years, too,” said Kinser, a general civil practice attorney at the Worthington law firm of Ahlquist & Wiltrout LLP since October 2013.
“After my parents married, they lived for a while in San Diego and Las Vegas before moving back to San Bernardino when I was 3 or 4; most of my extended family still lives there or in Redlands, a neighboring suburb where the suspects resided.”
There was much for Kinser to love about his hometown, including its prime location.
“San Bernardino is about 50 to 60 miles directly east of Los Angeles on Interstate 10, so it’s about 90 minutes from the beach and 90 minutes from San Diego,” explained Kinser.
“It’s easy to get from there to theme parks like Disneyland, or to Las Vegas or Tijuana, Mexico, so when I was young I went to the beach a lot on Saturdays, and I had been to more theme parks by the time I was 10 than my kids will see by the time they’re 15 or older,” he added.
Another thing Kinser appreciated about San Bernardino, which has expanded significantly since he left for college at Brigham Young University, is its diversity.
“It’s fascinating that Worthington is similarly diverse, though with different ethnicities represented,” observed Kinser, who said he is finding many opportunities to use his Spanish-speaking skills in his Worthington law practice.
“I would never have guessed my kids would have as diverse an experience in rural Minnesota as I had in southern California.”
Kinser also never guessed that San Bernardino, which he says has a high poverty rate and filed for bankruptcy in 2012, would gain its highest claim to fame under such tragic circumstances.
“I was shocked, just shocked,” said Kinser of the first moments when he learned about the Dec. 2 shooting.
“I couldn’t even imagine something like that happening in my hometown, even though it has economic problems, and this is sad because it’s another way in which the town takes a beating.
“San Bernardino can’t afford more negative publicity.”
While Kinser is not personally acquainted with anyone directly affected by the Dec. 2 tragedy, he has relatives who are.
“My cousin’s wife’s father is an official who works at the building where the shooting occurred,” said Kinser.
“He was safe, but my cousin couldn’t get in touch with him for several hours - and a friend of my aunt’s family was among those shot.”
Kinser’s mother works about five miles away from the shooting location, and her office was placed on lockdown during the hours immediately afterwards.
“Other than the shock of this occurring in my hometown, I didn’t have too much concern, though, because my parents live in the northeast part of San Bernardino and this happened in the southwest area,” Kinser said.
“I mean, if two gang members had shot each other, no one would have been surprised, but this was on another scale, a whole different ballgame.”
Kinser met his wife, Jensine, during his college years; his relocation to Minnesota makes sense when considering Jensine is from Sioux Falls, S.D., and Kinser graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Before moving to Worthington, Kinser practiced law in Marshall for three years. Today, his family has grown to include five children, all of whom will make the trip with him and Jensine to San Bernardino this week to celebrate Christmas.
“All our extended family will be together for the first time in about four years,” said Kinser, who channels any anxiety about the recent increase in shootings and terrorist attacks into concern for others.
“Personally, I’m a low-anxiety type of person so I don’t lay awake at night worrying about this, but it saddens me that a lot of people do,” said Kinser.
“I feel bad for the people in my hometown who are going through a lot right now, and for the fear people experience because of events like this.”
But with Christmas approaching, Kinser is trying to focus on the positives.
“In times like these, it’s nice to be able to visit family,” he said.
“Our kids will get to see their cousins, and we will get to spend time with the people we really care about the most.”

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