The investigation into what prompted a Los Angeles County firefighter to gun down one of his colleagues inside the Agua Dulce fire station appeared focused Wednesday on an ongoing workplace dispute between the gunman and his victim, while a fire captain who was also shot remained hospitalized.
The firefighter who was killed in the Tuesday morning shooting at the station was officially identified by the coroner’s office Wednesday as 44-year-old Tory Carlon, a 20-year veteran of the county fire department. He was married with three daughters.
Carlon, who was shot multiple times in the upper body, was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting that occurred about 10:55 a.m. Tuesday at Fire Station 81 in the 8700 block of Sierra Highway, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. A 54-year-old fire captain suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition with stable vital signs. He has not been identified.
After the shooting, the gunman, an off-duty county firefighter who also worked at Station 81, drove to his home in Acton about 10 miles from the station and appeared to set fire to the structure. He was later found dead in the home’s backyard of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The coroner’s office identified him Wednesday as 45-year-old Jonathan Patrick Tatone.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, whose agency is handling the shooting investigation, declined to comment on details of the investigation late Wednesday morning. But sheriff’s homicide Lt. Brandon Dean told The Associated Press that preliminary interviews with station employees indicate there was “some workplace beef” between Carlon and Tatone. He did not elaborate other than to say, “It sounds like they didn’t like each other.”
The Los Angeles Times, citing two sources with knowledge of the situation, reported that there was an ongoing dispute between Carlon and the gunman. The sources told The Times the dispute was apparently over the way the station was run and maintained, and the pair had argued in the past about various issues.
Carlon’s brother, Brent, wrote on Facebook Tuesday: “I don’t post a lot of personal information on Facebook, but will everyone please keep our family in your prayers as my brother is the firefighter that was killed in the shooting in Agua Dulce today.”
A family friend, Deborah Stilson, established a GoFundMe page to assist Carlon’s wife, Heidi, and their three daughters.
“Everyone who knew Tory loved him,” Stilson wrote on the page. “He was an extremely dedicated father and husband who brought a sense of calm to everyone. He absolutely loved being a firefighter and serving others. His family and friends are devastated by this loss.”
The fundraising page is at www.gofundme.com/f/the-carlon-family. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had raised more than $83,000.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at the state Capitol lowered to half-staff in honor of Carlon.
“Together with all Californians, we mourn the tragic and senseless loss of a brave and dedicated firefighter and community leader whose selfless service will not be forgotten,” Newsom said in a statement. “Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to Firefighter Specialist Carlon’s loved ones and colleagues. Our thoughts are also with the fire captain who was seriously injured in the shooting.”
Osby struggled to maintain his composure Tuesday as he discussed the shooting.
“I stand here with a heavy heart,” Osby said. “Today is truly a sad day and a tragic day for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. And I stand here from the perspective that you see other people do, but I just never thought it would be me or our fire department family that would suffer this type of loss.
“… I recognize and we all recognize that the work that our firefighters and our firefighter-paramedics do is a dangerous and arduous profession. And many times they put their lives in danger to protect and serve others when they receive 911 calls for service. But yet, as a fire chief, I never thought that when our firefighters face danger that they would face that danger in one of our community fire stations.”
Carlon’s body was carried in a solemn procession overnight from the Agua Dulce fire station to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
Earlier Tuesday night, about 200 people attended a vigil in Acton, attended by residents and county fire department colleagues.
One firefighter said of Carlon: “When it comes to being a father, when it comes to being a fireman, when it comes to being a mentor, there was nobody that could parallel that.”
Dean said Tuesday witnesses to the shooting were quickly able to identify the gunman and his vehicle, and deputies tracked him to his home in the 2600 block of Bent Spur Drive in Acton. Authorities said the suspect barricaded himself inside the home and set it on fire.
Uncertain of the gunman’s status, fire crews were unable to immediately respond to the blaze, and the flames chewed through the sprawling home. As the fire raged, sheriff’s crews spotted a man in the backyard of the home with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The body — now identified as Tatone — was seen in a seated, slumped-over position inside an empty swimming pool.
Fire crews eventually were able to douse the flames from the air, making a series of water drops.
The deadly shooting rocked the close-knit fire department.
“This morning when I received the news, it was some of the worst news that I’ve heard in my career,” Osby said Tuesday. “And as a fire chief, I’ve dealt with a lot of death and a lot of fallen members of my department. And I’ve always prayed that we would never have a line-of-duty death. I never thought that if it occurred that it would occur in this fashion.
“I know that as firefighters we are in a profession of providing assistance to others,” he added. “But I ask that in this particular situation, that we ask you for your support, that we ask you for your assistance, that we ask you for your prayers in our time of need.”
Osby said Carlon had been with the department for more than 20 years and was a career firefighter, starting in a U.S. Forest Service Explorer Program. He described him as “truly dedicated, one of our better firefighters, amazing, and a true loss to our department.”
Osby said he activated the department’s chaplain program, peer-support team and mental-health specialists to offer support for affected firefighters and their families.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, wrote on Twitter, “My most sincerest condolences to the family of the firefighter who was tragically killed in today’s shooting at Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce. My thoughts are with our @LACOFD family. At my direction, flags will be flown half-staff at all County buildings.”
County Supervisor Janice Hahn called the shooting “an unspeakable tragedy.”
“The work our firefighters do is dangerous,” she wrote on Twitter. “They go to work every day knowing they may be asked to put their lives on the line to protect others. Between emergency calls, the fire station must have felt like their safe haven. Unfortunately that sense of safety has now been shattered.
“But I know, in spite of the violence today in Agua Dulce, our LA County firefighters will continue their unwavering commitment to protecting the rest of us and we thank them for that.”
Edward Kelly, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the union for county firefighters, said the union is also offering peer-support and other services to affected members.
“Fire fighters leave their homes and loved ones every day knowing the risks involved in our profession,” he said. “The challenges of being a fire fighter or paramedic include seeing and experiencing some of life’s most horrifying circumstances. Nothing, however, can adequately prepare anyone for today’s tragedy.”