Essential California: A killing at Agua Dulce fire station

A house on fire on a hill
A burning home in Acton, where the man who is thought to be the suspect in a shooting at Fire Station 81 was found dead.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, June 2. Benjamin Oreskes here, writing from an overcast Los Angeles.

Tragedy struck the ranks of the Los Angeles County Fire Department on Tuesday in an area between Palmdale and Santa Clarita known as Agua Dulce.

In the morning at Fire Station 81, an ongoing dispute between two firefighters, who worked different shifts but lived in the same area, escalated, a county source with knowledge of the situation told The Times. The gunman shot and killed a 44-year-old firefighter. A captain was wounded when he tried to intercede, the source said.

The alleged gunman then fled to his home on Bent Spur Drive, about 10 miles away. Within minutes, that home was on fire, and by 3 p.m., it had been reduced to near rubble by the flames.


The man who is thought to be the suspect was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a small pool on the property, according to sheriff’s officials.

“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,” Chief Daryl L. Osby said.

The deceased victim, who has not yet been identified, had been with the department for more than 20 years.

The second victim, a 54-year-old fire captain, was transported to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, where he remained in critical but stable condition.

This incident, while tragic, is an increasingly regular occurrence in a country awash with guns. Workplace shootings are more common now than ever before — especially in California. Just last week, a gunman opened fire on a San Jose rail yard early in the morning, killing nine men before apparently turning the gun on himself.

In that instance, he appeared to have targeted his co-workers.

There have been 37 mass workplace shootings since 2009, according to data tracked by Everytown for Gun Safety. But in an alarming trend, five of those deadly attacks occurred in just the last 10 weeks.


And two of this year’s mass workplace shootings were carried out in California, in keeping with yet another lethal shift. From 1986 to 2011, a fourth of all mass workplace shootings nationwide occurred here, according to researchers at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

(Read more about the rash of workplace mass shootings in the Los Angeles Times).

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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It started small and grew. . Kellie Hart started a bike club to relieve stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, her club has grown to a full-fledged bike shop and, hopefully, a home for health and wellness in South L.A. Los Angeles Times

Kellie Hart at her bike shop, holding bike wheels
Kellie Hart at her Slauson Avenue bike shop, RideWitUs, which opened in April. The shop is a hub for cycling in South L.A.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A name-change controversy. A Northern California county has voted to rename Jim Crow Road after a debate over the racist implications of the name and accusations of “woke cancel culture.” The 4-1 vote by the Sierra County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday came after property owners along the road, located about three miles from Downieville, asked for a name change in early April. The name will be changed to Crow City Road, as recommended by the county’s historical society. Los Angeles Times

A first in the U.S.: A historic California task force met for the first time Tuesday with the ultimate goal of recommending reparations for descendants of enslaved people and those affected by slavery. Here’s what happens next. Los Angeles Times

Mon dieu! Real estate developers are planning a project on the Sunset Boulevard site of the French restaurant Taix. This development would replace its longtime building with a new complex that would rise to six stories and include housing and retail. The approval process is getting messy. Los Angeles Times


We’re not out of the woods yet. Coronavirus case rates remain elevated in some of California’s northernmost — and least vaccinated — reaches, underscoring the uneven nature of the state’s recovery journey even as COVID-19, on the whole, continues to recede. These gaps in vaccine coverage, though not new, are nonetheless sparking concerns that some swaths of the state may remain at risk of potential outbreaks, further complicating California’s emergence from the pandemic that has upended daily life for more than a year. Los Angeles Times

Mask off at work? A California workplace safety board on Thursday is scheduled to consider whether to relax mask and physical distancing rules for workers. Los Angeles Times


Knocked down by a higher court. The Supreme Court set aside a rule used by the 9th Circuit Court in California that presumed immigrants seeking asylum were telling the truth unless an immigration judge had made an “explicit” finding that they were not credible. Los Angeles Times


Big $$$ on homelessness. San Francisco Mayor London Breed is proposing more than $1 billion in new funding to address homelessness over the next two years — a staggering amount that she hopes will finally make a dent in the city’s most vexing problem. San Francisco Chronicle

Recall power play. “The newly elected president of California state government’s largest public employee union is trying to block a potential $1 million contribution from his union to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign.” Sacramento Bee

Stepping down: Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz has resigned his position, citing an onslaught of public attacks on his character and fear for the safety of his family. Los Angeles Times


Solar panel high jinks. Times columnist David Lazarus has an enervating story out of the Central Valley where a woman’s death wasn’t the end of the money she owed a company for the solar panels that were installed but never used. Los Angeles Times

Crime is up in the Bay Area. Like other U.S. cities, Oakland has seen a sharp uptick in homicides as the pandemic has unfolded. Through May 23, the city had recorded 51 homicides for the year, a 132% increase compared with the same period last year and a 70% increase compared with 2019. San Francisco Chronicle

Life-and-death decisions. How and when the death penalty is used in California could be in for a major change. “The state’s highest court will consider whether to raise the bar for when a jury can sentence a defendant to capital punishment, a decision that could affect pending cases and potentially reverse death sentences for the 704 inmates already on California’s Death Row.” CalMatters



Preparing for a dry, hot summer. The effects of California’s deepening drought hit home for Central Valley farmers when federal officials announced they didn’t have enough water to supply many of their agricultural customers. Inside Climate News

Saving the California condor: A colossus of the sky, the bird of prey was nearly gone when biologists rescued it from extinction. Then came a terrible new challenge. Smithsonian Magazine

a California condor
In this June 2017 photo, a California condor takes flight in the Ventana Wilderness east of Big Sur.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)


A big deal for music lovers. The premier music festivals of Southern California, Coachella and Stagecoach, will at long last return in spring of 2022. After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, Coachella will take place on successive weekends, April 15-17 and April 22-24; the country music festival Stagecoach will return April 29-May 1. Los Angeles Times

Ask Patt. Come on down for a quick history lesson from Times columnist Patt Morrison on the mafia’s reach in Los Angeles. She explains why they were far quieter than their cousins in Chicago and New York City. Los Angeles Times

Footy update from south of the border. There was once a sports team so cursed that its very name became slang for “choke.” Now that team, Cruz Azul, has won the Mexican league championship in soccer — its first title in 24 years. Los Angeles Times


What will become of the Cinerama dome? AMC Entertainment, owner of the world’s largest theater chain, is eyeing cinema locations previously operated by ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres. Los Angeles Times

Must-watch video. A bear got close to a 17-year-old girl’s dogs, and she wasn’t having it. Check out the clip. ABC7

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Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 77. San Diego: partly cloudy, 72 . San Francisco: partly cloudy, 63. San Jose: sunny, 78. Fresno: sunny, 105(!!). Sacramento: sunny, 93.


Today’s California memory comes from Rebecca Brockway:

Goleta Beach 1974. I’m 16. We arrive on Schwinn 3-speeds. As we padlock our bikes to the designated rack, I know: The day is special. The shoreline is minus the usual tangle of putrid seaweed and swarming flies. Dolphins leap from the turquoise surface. Fish feed in bubbling frenzies. Gulls dive. The sky is brilliant azul. We body surf with El Niño, tropical shaman, who anoints everything with magic. The afternoon wanes. We’re sunburned sisters on beach towels postponing our pedal home. Twins we know from church pass by carrying surfboards not bibles. We wave. Then, I brush sand from my rosy shins.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


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