A large crowd gathered at Fire Station 10 in Long Beach late Monday for a candlelight vigil for Capt. Dave Rosa, who was shot and killed by a gunman while responding to a fire alarm at a senior housing complex.
A makeshift memorial grew outside the station, with people leaving behind bouquets of flowers and American flags, while various public agencies brought flower wreaths. Mourners held candles in foil and said a prayer.
Rosa, who joined the Long Beach Fire Department 17 years ago, was remembered by a colleague as a dedicated firefighter and an outgoing friend.
“He was somebody you always wanted with you. He was a firefighter’s firefighter,” said firefighter Jake Heflin, a spokesman for the department who worked with Rosa on a paramedic unit at Station 9 about 16 years ago. “He always had your back. He would always take care of you.”
More recently, Rosa worked as a training captain, leading new firefighters through the academy, and a paramedic preceptor. Over the years, Heflin said, firefighters in the close-knit department celebrated holidays and birthdays with Rosa and watched his children grow up.
“Dave was as genuine as they come,” Heflin said. “He would always greet you with a smile, give you a big hug and just talk about how our families were doing.”
Rosa is survived by his wife, Lynley, and sons Alec, 25, and Samuel, 16, according to a statement by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Capt. Rosa’s family, friends and the entire Long Beach Fire Department as they mourn his tragic death,” Brown said in the statement, adding that Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff in Rosa’s honor.
The incident began before dawn Monday, when a fire alarm sounded at the Covenant Manor senior housing complex. Soon after, there were reports of an explosion and a fire.
Rosa and another firefighter, Ernesto Torres, were “rushing to save lives” when they were unexpectedly struck by gunfire, authorities said. They were both taken to St. Mary Medical Center. Torres was treated and released. A third person, an elderly man who lives in the building, was also wounded and was in stable but critical condition late Monday.
Thomas Kim, a 77-year-old resident of the facility, was arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and arson, authorities said. He is being held on $2-million bail. Investigators are working to determine a motive.
“He hasn’t given us much of an explanation,” Long Beach police Cmdr. Paul LeBaron said.
At an afternoon news conference, Fire Chief Mike DuRee said firefighters across the country are putting themselves in harm’s way in service to their community.
“Capt. Rosa answered that call this morning ... I don’t think we should ever lose sight of the fact that men and women of law enforcement and fire service are constantly at risk,” DuRee said.
“We are in mourning,” he added. “But as I say that, even though we have men and women on fire engines right now that are in mourning, they continue to go to work.”
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.