Los Angeles

‘Sad Day in Long Beach's History': Fire Captain Fatally Shot After Responding to Senior Home Explosion

The firefighters were responding to a fire at the Long Beach high-rise building when they were struck by gunfire

What to Know

  • Two firefighters were struck by gunfire as they responded to a report of a fire early Monday at a Long Beach senior home
  • Capt. David Rosa, 45, was killed during the emergency response at a high-rise building
  • Residents were evacuated from the building in the 600 block of East 4th Street

A shooter opened fire on two firefighters, fatally wounding one, Monday morning as they responded to an explosion and fire at a Long Beach senior home.

Capt. David Rosa, 45, was killed in what colleagues called a sad day for the city. The 17-year department member is survived by a wife and two children. 

"It hits home. We just show up to do our job," said Long Beach Police Sgt. Brad Johnson. "Firefighters, they deal with fire. They don't deal with bullets. It's a sad day in Long Beach's history."

A resident struck by gunfire was hospitalized in critical condition.

A second firefighter who suffered non-life-threatening injuries was released from a hospital late Monday morning. He was identified as 35-year-old Ernesto Torres, also part of Long Beach Fire Station No. 10.

Police said the suspected shooter who opened fire inside the 11-story building is 77-year-old Thomas Kim, a resident at the complex. Kim was arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and arson, as authorities indicated Kim set the fire that drew firefighters to the senior home.

Investigators were attempting to determine whether the shooting was an ambush.

The shooting was reported at a high-rise building in the 600 block of East 4th Street after authorities responded to reports of an explosion and fire. The Covenant House, which is in the area of Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Street, was surrounded by police and fire department vehicles early Monday as evacuated residents waited outside.

Details about the explosion were not immediately available.

"There was a lot of commotion," said witness Dan Rafferty, whose video captured SWAT officers and firefighters helping residents and at least one firefighter out of the residence.

Rafferty said he saw the shooter with a gun in his hand as resident evacuated. 

Firefighters knocked down the fire at about 4 a.m. and reported a strong smell of gasoline coming from a unit in the high-rise building. About eight minutes later, police received a report of shots fired from the residence. 

The residential tower near downtown Long Beach has 100 apartments for low-income people age 62 and older as well as disabled adults over age 18, according to its website.

Aerial video showed a fire engine ladder extended to the balcony of one of the residences. The unit's window appeared to have been blown out, possibly by the explosion.

"It's a very stressful situation," said firefighter-paramedic Jake Heflin, of the Long Beach Fire Department. "This is a very serious day for us."

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said a weapon was recovered at the home. A bomb squad was searching the apartment Monday morning. 

"There is a big puzzle to put together," Luna said of the investigation.

Luna said police officers and firefighters "go to these scenes and you never know what's on the other side of those doors."

He added: "And these brave firefighters went through those doors and unfortunately they were met with gunfire."

Colleagues and Long Beach residents lined streets along a procession Monday afternoon that transported Capt. Rosa's remains in a flag-draped casket to the coroner's office in downtown Los Angeles. Some stood in salute on top of a fire truck on a freeway overpass.

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