An off-duty firefighter who went into an Agua Dulce fire station and opened fire Tuesday, killing one colleague and wounding another, was later found dead at the scene of a burning home in Acton, authorities said.
The gunman had the day off but still went to Los Angeles County Fire Department station 81 in the 8700 block of Sierra Highway and opened fire around 10:55 a.m., said L.A. County fire Chief Daryl Osby.
A 44-year-old firefighter specialist was struck multiple times in the upper torso and succumbed to his injuries. The man had worked with the Fire Department for more than 20 years, Osby said.
A fire captain, 54, was also shot multiple times and airlifted to treatment at the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where he was later listed in critical but stable condition, officials said.
After the shooting the gunman returned to his house about 10 miles east of the station in Acton, where he barricaded himself before setting it on fire. The man was later found dead, according to Osby.
The chief expressed shock and grave sadness at the events, calling it “some of the worst news that I’ve heard in my career.”
“I just never thought it would be me, nor our department family that was suffer this type of loss,” he said.
Officials did not immediately release the identifies of the firefighters shot or the suspected gunman.
But witnesses at the station were able to identify the shooter to investigators, and deputies tracked him to his residence in the 2600 block of Bent Spur Drive. While en route to the location, authorities learned a fire had broken out at the home, said sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Dean.
Water-dropping aircraft were used to battle the blaze, which smoldered for hours and consumed the home. Authorities said they were waiting for the home to finish burning before entering out of an abundance of caution.
A SWAT team and crisis negotiators also responded to the scene.
But Dean said deputies never made contact with the suspect, as they found his body floating in the pool with a gunshot wound to the head.
It appears to be self-inflicted, since deputies had not opened fire and no one else is believed to have been on the property. But coroner’s officials still have to positively identify the body and determine a cause of death, Dean said.
Detectives are also still working to piece together a motive behind the deadly gunfire.
Osby said there would typically be four people on duty at the station on a Tuesday morning: a captain, a firefighter specialist and two firefighters.
He described the specialist killed as a career firefighter who was “one of our best,” and took a risk in working at the Agua Dulce fire station where the chance of wildfires is high.
“It takes a lot of courage to work there,” he said. “Not everybody has the courage and skill set to do that.”
Personnel from other fire stations were being brought in to relieve those assigned to Agua Dulce, and mental health assessments will be conducted to determine who is able to work, Osby said.
The scene at the burning home remained active late Tuesday afternoon, and deputies were continuing their investigation.
No further details were available.