A 77-year-old man was arrested Monday for allegedly ambushing firefighters responding to a report of an explosion at a high-rise Long Beach apartment building housing low-income seniors, killing a veteran fire captain and wounding a second firefighter and a civilian.
The Long Beach Fire Department firefighters had been sent to Covenant Manor, an 11-story building in the 600 block of East Fourth Street, about 3:50 a.m. in response to a report of a possible explosion at the senior living home. A fire alarm had been set off, and the sprinkler system had been activated, the LBFD reported.
Capt. Dave Rosa, 45, a 17-year veteran with a wife and two children, was fatally wounded, the LBFD reported. The other firefighter — Ernesto Torres, 35, and a 10-year veteran — suffered a graze wound, and was treated at a hospital and released.
A third person, a Covenant Manor resident whose name was withheld, was taken to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was in critical but stable condition Monday afternoon, according to Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna.
Covenant Manor resident Thomas Kim, who was initially described as a “person of interest,” was later arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and arson, with bail set at $2 million, Luna said at a late afternoon briefing.
A motive was unclear. Luna said the investigation remains “a large puzzle we are trying to put together.”
Kim had been arrested “many years ago” on suspicion of auto theft, the chief said.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was sent to examine two “suspicious devices” found at the scene, LBPD spokeswoman Nancy Pratt said. A handgun was also recovered, according to Luna.
About 80 residents who were evacuated as a precaution were being temporarily accommodated at Silverado Park Community Center at 1545 W. 31st St., according to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
Early Monday afternoon, Rosa’s body was taken from Saint Mary Medical Center in Long Beach to the coroner’s facility near downtown Los Angeles in a coroner’s van that was escorted by a procession of fire and law enforcement vehicles. An honor guard was to remain with the body until it is transferred to a funeral home.
LBFD Chief Mike Duree, who announced Rosa’s death at a morning briefing at Saint Mary Medical Center, said “initial reports came in that there was some type of explosion” at the senior living home.
“At 3:51 a.m., occupants reported the smell of … gasoline,” he said. “Occupants were instructed to shelter in place. As fire units made their way to the reported location, they noticed that windows had been blown out … in the general vicinity of an affected unit, and that sprinklers had been activated. At 3:59 a.m., the fire units stated they had knocked down the initial fire. At 4:08 a.m., (there were reports of shots fired) at the location. We had two firefighters that were shot.”
A candlelight vigil for Rosa was scheduled for 8 p.m. at Fire Station 10, where he was assigned.
“This tragic and senseless loss is a blow to our whole city,” said Long Beach City Councilman Dee Andrews, whose Sixth District includes Fire Station 10. “My thoughts and prayers are with Capt. Rosa’s family and will all the first responders who work hard to protect us every day.”
Garcia said Rosa was “well-loved in Long Beach amongst his peers but also in the community.”
The mayor said Rosa and other first responders who entered the building and searched for other possible victims even before Kim was apprehended are “heroes who run towards danger every single day, and today was no exception.”
Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement expressing condolence and sadness over the killing.
“It was with great sadness that Anne and I learned Fire Captain David Rosa passed away today while protecting the residents of a retirement home. Our deepest condolences go out to Captain Rosa’s family, friends and the entire Long Beach Fire Department as they mourn his tragic death.”
Rosa is survived by his wife, Lynley, and sons Alec, 25, and Samuel, 16.
In his honor, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.