Executive at San Francisco company killed in Kenyan attack a 'force of nature,' friend says

Image 1 of 2

Kenya's security forces have killed the Islamic extremist gunmen whose assault on a luxury hotel and shopping complex took 21 "innocent lives," which included an executive who co-founded a San Francisco-based company, the country's president said Wednesday.

"All the terrorists have been eliminated," President Uhuru Kenyatta said in announcing an end to the overnight operation to secure the complex in the capital, Nairobi.

Al-Shabab - the extremist group allied to al-Qaida and based in neighboring Somalia - claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi's well-to-do Westlands neighborhood with many foreign expatriates. Al-Shabab carried out the 2013 attack at the nearby Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

Most of the victims were Kenyans, a mortuary attendant said. The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, and the company I-DEV International in San Francisco confirmed that its co-founder, Jason Spindler, 40, had been killed. The British high commissioner in Kenya said at least one British national had been killed.

Spindler had been "running around doing errands and having a late lunch in the area, likely catching up on work," said his friend and company co-founder Patricia Chin-Sweeney. 

She called Spindler one of her best friends, a "force of nature" she met in graduate school at New York University a decade ago, where he earned law and international business degrees. "He had so much energy. He just pulled you into his adventures," she said on Wednesday, hours before she planned to fly to Nairobi, where Spindler had lived for the last two years.

Spindler's Facebook page shows him traveling the world, climbing rocks in South Africa, hiking in Las Vegas and visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  He also graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in finance and economics, and attended Hebron Academy in Israel. His LinkedIn profile shows he also was a fellow at Helton Global Human Rights in 2009 and spent time in the Peace Corps from 2005 to 2006.

Spindler also survived the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. His brother, Jonathan, posted on Facebook that he is sure Spindler gave the terrorists "hell."

Chin-Sweeney said that Spindler, in typical fashion, stayed to help people on the streets of New York in 2001 and that she knows in her heart that if he had survived the blast in Nairobi, he would have stayed to help out, too.

She and Spinlder came up with the idea of I-DEV Internationalto help farmers, fisherman and artisans become viable businesses, using cutting-edge technology, which is why they chose San Francisco as their U.S. headquarters. 

He is survived by his parents and two brothers, she said.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011. Tuesday's violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

Chin-Sweeney said that she is now brainstorming on ideas to carry on Spindler's legacy and has started a GoFundMe page to carry on his "big plans." 

She said his hope had been to "unlock opportunities in Africa" so that there wouldn't be a need for people to feel they need to resort to terrorism. 


The Associated Press contributed to this report.