(LOS ANGELES) -- A veteran Los Angeles County Fire Department member is dead and a captain was critically injured after an off-duty comrade allegedly opened fire inside a fire station in Southern California on Tuesday, the police said.
The unidentified suspect was believed to be found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his residence, which burned to the ground, according to the investigators. However, they can't say this is the suspect because the house is still burning. Once it's safe, officers will approach to confirm the person's identity.
The gunfire was reported at 10:53 a.m. local time at Los Angeles County Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce, according to the sheriff's department.
It is with heavy hearts that the LACoFD confirms that a tragic shooting occurred at approximately 10:55 a.m. today at FS 81 in Agua Dulce. The Dept. is still in the process of gathering additional information & are cooperating with law enf. throughout this ongoing incident. (1/2)— L.A. County Fire Department (@LACoFDPIO) June 1, 2021
Officers responded to the scene and found a fire department specialist, who is described as a 44-year-old man with 20 years of experience with the fire department, dead at the scene. A second victim, described as a 54-year-old captain, was airlifted to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and went into surgery, LA County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The captain was listed in critical but stable condition, according to Osby.
"As a fire chief, I’ve dealt with a lot of death and a lot of fallen members of my department. I always prayed we would never have a line of duty death and if it occurred, it would occur in this fashion," a visually emotional Osby said during the news conference.
Members of the firehouse identified the suspect to officers and gave them the description of his getaway vehicle, Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. Osby would only describe the suspect as a specialist assigned to the station who wasn't scheduled to work on Tuesday.
When officers arrived at the alleged suspect's home, the property was on fire and they found who they believe to be the suspect in the back pool area with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, Dean said.
Officers and other crews waited for the fire to be put out before they entered the premises since they determined there was no one else inside the house, according to Dean.
A fire helicopter has made a water drop on the house, but the property burned to the ground.
The investigation is ongoing, but the fire department and police said they haven't determined a motive.
Osby said he never imagined that his members would face danger inside their own "safe house." He said the department would provide counselors and other support staff for the fire department to deal with the mental trauma.
"I stand here with a heavy heart. It's truly a sad day and tragic day for the LA County Fire Department," he said.