LONG BEACH, California. – A resident of a retirement home in Southern California, opened fire on the fire department responds to a report of an explosion in the building, the killing of a veteran fire captain and injuring a second firefighter and one other person, officials said.
The shooting happened after the fire brigade responded to an alarm shortly before 4 a.m. on the 11-story retirement facility in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, and found a number of windows blown out, activated the sprinklers, the smell of gas and a fire that they put out, authorities said.
Firefighters were searching the building when the shots were fired, and the two firefighters were hit, Long Beach Fire Chief Michael DuRee said.
Fire Capt. Dave Rosa, who had worked for the department 17 years, died in a hospital Monday morning, DuRee said. He is survived by his wife and two children, the chief said.
The other firefighter who was shot was not immediately identified, was hospitalized in stable condition. A third person was also hit by gunfire and was in critical condition and undergoing surgery, said police chief Robert Luna. No further details are provided about that person.
Dozens of firefighters stood at attention and saluted as the flag draped casket with Rosa’s body was brought to a hospital Monday afternoon, and loaded into a coroner’s van. Community members waved American flags along the street outside the hospital, such as the procession of police and fire department vehicles escorted the van from the coroner’s office.
Luna said a “person of interest” — that the police is of the opinion that a resident in the facility was locked into the scene and was questioned by the researchers. A weapon was recovered at the scene, he said.
“There is a big puzzle to put together,” Luna said.
Investigators were looking into whether the shooter intentionally lured workers to the place to surprise them, Luna said.
“That is the environment where we work today, as law enforcement and fire departments. You go to these scenes and you never know what is on the other side of the doors. And these brave firefighters went through those doors and unfortunately they were met with gunfire,” Luna said.
Pamela Barr, who lives in the building, said she was awakened by a fire alarm and do not panic, because false alarms are not uncommon. She tried to go back to sleep, but then learned what happened by watching TV news. Firefighters later evacuated the building and put the occupants on the buses.
“This is a lot to do,” said Barr, 73, she sat with her son in a car waiting to be allowed back into the tower, where she lives on the ninth floor on the other side of the building where the fire occurred.
Barr said that they had not heard of problems where residents of the facility, where they lived for seven years. They described it as clean, safe and well.
Gloria Ford, 58, who lives a few blocks away, was awakened by a screaming siren earlier and came to check the scene.
“I am very sad about. I’m sick,” she said about the death of the firefighter. “It’s just crazy.”
Police also called for the bomb squad investigators after they discovered “a few devices that they deemed to be suspicious.”
The residential tower in the neighborhood of downtown Long Beach, has over 100 apartments for low-income people age 62 and older and disabled adults older than 18 years, according to its website.
Long Beach is one of the most important port of the town with a population of more than 400,000.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.