An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was killed outside a Long Beach home Tuesday in what Sheriff Lee Baca said may have been an accidental shooting.
Maria Cecelia Rosa, 30, a six-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, may have inadvertently discharged her own service weapon as she was placing equipment in her car before work, Baca said. But the case remains under investigation and homicide has not been ruled out, he said.
Rosa was found slumped over the open trunk of her car in the driveway of a friend’s home in the 2900 block of Eucalyptus Avenue in the early morning with a gunshot wound to her upper body, police said. Her discharged weapon lay before her in the trunk.
She was transported to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Baca said that the position of Rosa’s body and the condition of her gun suggest an accident.
“My hope is it is an accidental discharge,” Baca said. “The body was in a position to add some credence to that. The investigation is still ongoing.”
Long Beach police, who are in charge of the investigation, were more cautious, saying that further investigation and an autopsy are needed to determine what happened.
“It honestly is not clear what did occur,” Long Beach Police Sgt. David Cannan said. “At this point we are not ruling any possibility out, from an accidental shooting to a premeditated murder.”
Long Beach police said dispatchers received an “officer down” call made from inside the Wrigley neighborhood home about 6 a.m. Moments after finding Rosa wounded in the driveway, officers swarmed the area and conducted house-to-house searches.
Resident Linda Vizcarra said the sound of fire engines awoke her at “6ish” and police came knocking. “They checked my car and told us we wouldn’t be able to leave right away,” said Vizcarra, a third-grade teacher.
Rosa, who lived in Pomona, worked at the county jail’s Inmate Reception Center.
She had been staying with a longtime friend, a fellow sheriff’s deputy, and was dressed in casual clothing when the shooting occurred, police said.
A family member identified Rosa’s friend as Det. Jenny Martin. Rosa frequently stayed in Martin’s three-bedroom stucco home, said Martha Esquivias, Martin’s sister.
Esquivias said Rosa’s and Martin’s families were acquainted, and that the two had known each other before they became deputies. The home is also shared by Martin’s nephew, Eder Gonzalez, 23, she said.
A native of Sonora, Mexico, Rosa graduated from high school in Gilroy, Calif., in 1993 and joined the Sheriff’s Department seven years later, according to deputies. Like many new deputies, she was assigned to jails, working in the area where inmates are received and released.
Family and friends, some of whom huddled just beyond the police tape that blocked entry to Eucalyptus Avenue, said they knew her as “Sessy.” They described her as pretty, warm and engaging.
“She was really fun, really outgoing, really friendly,” said Armando Garcia, 38, who saw a helicopter shot of the crime scene and came to the street.
Rosa is survived by three brothers and two sisters, deputies said.
Baca called the death a tragedy and said the department was mourning the family’s loss.
Rosa was the second L.A. County sheriff’s deputy to die in less than a week. On Thursday, Deputy Pierre Bain, 45, a 14-year veteran of the force, was killed in an on-duty motorcycle accident in Lancaster.