Firefighters saluted Tuesday night as the body of a slain colleague was transported in a solemn procession from Fire Station 81 in the Santa Clarita Valley to the coroner’s office near downtown Los Angeles.
An American flag was suspended between two ladder trucks in an emotional display of support for the family of the 44-year-old firefighter, a more than 20-year member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and his co-workers. Firefighters stood atop fire trucks in salute as the procession passed on its nearly 50-mile journey to Boyle Heights,.
The firefighter was killed and a fire captain was injured Tuesday morning when an off-duty firefighter opened fire at their fire station in Agua Dulce. The shooter set his own home, located about 10 miles from the station, on fire and apparently died by suicide, investigators said.
Authorities are trying to determine a motive, but said the shooting likely stemmed from some type of dispute. The department’s chief said he didn’t know about any disciplinary actions involving the gunman, who wasn’t immediately identified.
The 44-year-old fire specialist, who drove a fire truck, was shot several times in the upper body. He is a father of three daughters, Chief Daryl Osby said.
Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday night for a vigil at a park near Fire Station 81. The victim was remembered as a devoted father and committed firefighter who was a mentor to younger colleagues.
The fire station is in Agua Dulce, a rural community of about 3,000 people in the desert of northern Los Angeles County known for its rock formations and panoramic views. Osby said the station has only four firefighters per shift and was considered a home by workers who typically work there 24 hours at a time.
Many long-time residents have developed a bond with firefighters, some of whom have protected homes in the area during wildfires.
“As a fire chief, I never thought that when our firefighters face danger, that they would face danger in one of our community fire stations,” Osby said.
A 54-year-old fire captain who also was shot in the upper body underwent surgery and was in critical but stable condition at a hospital.
Following the shooting, the gunman then returned to his house, which authorities found engulfed in flames. He was later found dead in an empty pool of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot, since nobody else was at the home and deputies didn’t open fire, sheriff’s officials said.
Helicopters fought the blaze because it was considered unsafe to send firefighters into the home, which burned for hours. A SWAT team and a bomb squad were sent in before firefighters were finally allowed to use hoses on the gutted ruins.
Source: NBC Los Angeles