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Firefighters From Around SoCal, Family Members Honor Long Beach Fire Captain Shot and Killed in the Line of Duty

The son of Capt. David Rosa, shot and killed as he responded to an explosion and fire at a high-rise building, share heart-wrenching memories of his beloved father at Tuesday's memorial service

Family members, friends and firefighters from 14 Southern California  departments were part of an emotional memorial service Tuesday for a Long Beach fire captain who was shot and killed in the line of duty.

A memorial service for Capt. Dave Rosa, who was struck by gunfire June 25 as he responded to a report of an explosion and fire at a senior living facility, drew mourners, including members of several law enforcement and fire departments, to the Long Beach Convention Center.

Bagpipers and red fire trucks were part of a solemn procession from Station No. 10 to the convention center. Police and other law enforcement officers wore black bands over their badges in memory of the slain firefighter, whose flag-draped casket was carried in the back of a fire engine.

One of Rosa's two sons, Alec, told the crowd gathered at the service that the news of his father's killing had left him "in shock."

"My dad's a fireman. Firemen aren't supposed to get shot," Alec Rosa said. "And it wouldn't be real until I called a friend, and when I repeated what my mom had told me, that's when I started to cry. And I cried that day for about 10 hours. And when I did stop, it wouldn't be because I wasn't in pain, or I ran out of tears; it's because my body was numb, and it physically hurt to continue to cry.

"And the rest of the week was weird, because it didn't feel real. But every day that passed made it more real. The fact that he wasn't coming back; that I couldn't call him anymore; that I couldn't ask him for his advice; that I was never just going to be able to drop by the (fire) station and hang out, and talk about life. And it's not just me. My mom is never going hear him come in the door and say, 'Honey, I'm home.' My little brother is never going to be able to look out during a baseball game and see his dad watching in the stands. And my grandparents are never going to have their son just drop in for dinner to hang out with them."

Firefighters from as far away as Vermont, Florida and Canada attended the emotional ceremony for Rosa, 45, was shot when he and other firefighters went to the Covenant Manor, an 11-story building in the 600 block of East Fourth Street. He died at a hospital. Firefighter Ernesto Torres, 35, and a resident in the building also were wounded.

Torres was a pallbearer at Tuesday's memorial service for a respected and beloved colleague.

"Any time you talked to him, his focus was on you and was on the moment," said Capt. Jack Crabtree. "He remembered those conversations that you had throughout your career. 

"Dave Rosa was someone that everybody wanted to work with."

Rosa is survived by his wife Lynley, his two sons, Alec, 26, and Sam, 15, his parents, Paul and Jean Rosa, and his sister, Julia Hensley. 

Rosa was a 17-year veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department. His last assignment was at Fire Station 10 in central Long Beach. Before that, he served as a training captain.

Capt. Matt Dobberpuhl started with the department at the same time as Rosa. 

"I did get a chance to work with Dave, and I remember getting in a food fight with him," said Dobberpuhl. "We were doing the dishes, and he was just a jokester and a prankster.

"Everybody says that he was just a joy to be around. Hard working guy. Humble. And, just his laugh, you know, would echo though the station whenever you worked with him."

The Long Beach Fire Department announced that a fund was set up for Rosa's family.

The suspect -- Thomas Man Kim, 77, a resident of the building -- was arrested that morning. He was charged last week with capital murder and other counts.

Kim allegedly set off an explosive device in his apartment in an effort to kill a female neighbor who lived above him and with whom he had been feuding, according to prosecutors.

"It is hard to comprehend why someone would do that," Dobberpuhl said. "There's a lot of evil in the world.

"I would hope that at this point he would feel regret for his actions. I don't know what the situation is with the person that did this. But it is hard to understand and accept and we just have to keep going. We just have to keep doing our job and taking care of each other and living and praying for each other."

Firefighters knocked down the fire at about 4 a.m. and reported a strong smell of gasoline coming from a unit in the high-rise building. About eight minutes later, police received a report of shots fired from the residence.

The residential tower near downtown Long Beach has 100 apartments for low-income people age 62 and older as well as disabled adults over age 18, according to its website. 

A handgun was recovered at the scene. Bomb squad technicians removed flammable liquids believed to be gasoline from the apartment, police said.

"Our job and our profession has changed dramatically," said Long Beach firefighter Jake Heflin. "We didn't talk about active shooter incidents five, 10 years ago. I've been with the fire department 18 years. That wasn't even part of the conversation that we had typically.

"That has changed dramatically, where we actually incorporate and engage in active shooter-type training every year. And, so our job is changing dramatically as it relates to the risks of our job."

Colleagues and Long Beach residents lined streets along a procession that  afternoon as Capt. Rosa's remains in a flag-draped casket were transported to the coroner's office in downtown Los Angeles. Some stood in salute on top of a fire truck on a freeway overpass.

"It hits home. We just show up to do our job," said Long Beach Police Sgt. Brad Johnson said after the shooting. "Firefighters, they deal with fire. They don't deal with bullets. It's a sad day in Long Beach's history."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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