1 firefighter killed, 1 wounded in Agua Dulce station shooting
An off-duty firefighter shot and killed a co-worker Tuesday at a Los Angeles County Fire Department station in Agua Dulce and wounded another firefighter before fleeing to his nearby home, which he apparently then set on fire, the department’s chief said.
Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the suspect, who has not been identified, arrived at Fire Station 81 at 8170 Sierra Highway around 10:50 a.m.
Once inside, he shot a co-worker “multiple times in the upper torso,” according to a Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detective. The suspect also shot and wounded a fire captain.
A motive for the attacks was not immediately known.
Following the shootings, the suspect got into a white pickup truck and drove to his home in Acton on West Bent Spur Drive. When sheriff’s SWAT team members arrived at the home, they found it on fire. And they saw a man lying in a shallow pool with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head, said Detective Brandon Dean.
Typically an unflappable, stoic presence at major disasters across Southern California, Osby spoke haltingly and emotionally as he fielded questions near the station Tuesday.
“As a fire chief, I’ve dealt with a lot of death,” Osby said. “I always pray that we never have a line-of-duty death. I never thought one would occur in this fashion.”
The injured fire captain, a 54-year-old man, was airlifted to Henry Mayo Hospital and was in critical condition. He underwent surgery for his injuries.
Law enforcement vehicles surrounded the flaming house — a boxy, single-story, Pueblo-style home on a sprawling property — as it smoldered and burned for much of the day. Helicopters circled the home, but neither firefighters nor deputies approached for several hours.
At around 1 p.m., a sheriff’s bomb squad vehicle arrived at the scene as deputies with the department’s SWAT team waited to enter the home.
As of 3 p.m., the entire structure had burned to the ground, reduced to smoldering rubble. Dean said detectives had still not been on the property.
Officials released very little information about the suspected shooter. Osby said both the suspect and the fatal victim were engineers who drive firefighting vehicles. There were four L.A. County Fire employees on duty at the station Tuesday, when the suspect was off.
The fatal victim was only identified as a 44-year-old man. Osby said he was “truly dedicated, one of the best firefighters we have.”
Fire Station 81 is not one of the busiest fire stations in L.A. County, but working there is fraught with danger from wildfires.
“It takes a lot of courage to work (at Station 81),” Osby said. “Not everybody has the courage and the skill sets to do that.”
Tuesday night, firefighters, their families and community members gathered at Acton Community Park to honor the fallen firefighter and show support for the injured captain.
Outside the station, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said investigators hadn’t yet spoken to witnesses to the shooting. He said detectives didn’t know yet why the suspect attacked his co-workers.
Asked if the suspect was angry over a workplace issue, Villanueva said “there’s always that possibility, but we won’t know until we have interviewed every potential witness at the scene.”
Dean said the sheriff’s department investigation was only just beginning.
“We’ve only been out here for a couple of hours now,” he said. “This is going to go on for a while.”
The shooting and the fire unfolded in rural Agua Dulce and Acton, about 15 miles from Santa Clarita. L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the area, went to the station after the shooting.
Osby said he’s presided over 70 funerals in his more than 30 years with L.A. County Fire. He said this was the only time that he could think of where firefighters faced danger at their own station.
“I’ve never experienced…a situation where a firefighter came in off duty, into a safehouse, our home…and shot people,” Osby said.