Slain Long Beach fire Capt. David Rosa exhibited “great valor” when he attempted to rescue someone in need — only to be met with gunfire, the department’s chief told thousands of mourners Tuesday morning during a memorial at the Long Beach Convention Center that drew firefighters from across Southern California and beyond.
Chief Mike DuRee presented an American flag to Rosa’s wife, Lynley, while firefighter Ernesto Torres, who was wounded in the June 25 attack, presented a memorial badge to Rosa’s youngest son, 15-year-old Sam.
Todd Radarmel, pastor of Rosa’s Mountain View Church in San Juan Capistrano, where he lived, quoted a letter from a neighbor of Rosa’s parents that summed up the feelings of many:
“He was there to do his job: Keep us safe so we could be free to go about (our lives). He ran in with a hose and was greeted by a bullet. Killed in the line of duty — not by a burning building, but a shooter waiting inside one.
“His life’s work is one of the last bastions of what is best about this country, that ancient spirit of unconditional support. He did not hesitate. He did not seek out caveats or loopholes or excuses.
“He died the living definition of a hero,” Eric Brewster wrote. “There was a fire; he ran into the flames.”
Hearing stories about his father and seeing the outpouring of love and support has helped ease the pain for 26-year-old Alec Rosa.
But the day his dad died, the son cried for 10 hours.
“Firemen aren’t supposed to get shot,” he said.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called for a round of applause for the Fire Department, leading the whole arena to give a standing ovation.
“Our Fire Department will emerge stronger because we went through this tragedy together,” Garcia said.
Before the service, across from the Convention Center, law enforcement personnel representing multiple agencies practiced “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes during the early hours and residents on their morning walks stopped to take in the scene and snap photos.
“Firefighters risk their lives every day just by showing up,” Shelby Buckley, 34, said. “It’s just sad for everybody.”
About 8:30 a.m., the procession, led by Long Beach Fire Engine 10 from Rosa’s station house, carrying his casket drapped with an American flag, made its way along Shoreline Drive and into a parking lot where law enforcement personnel lined the entryway into the Convention Center. A convoy of helicopters flew overhead.
“It’s important for us as a community to be here,” said Jacqui Salameh, a 28-year resident of Long Beach. “This is a beautiful turnout.”
Fire personnel from as far away as Miami-Dade County in Florida showed up to pay their respects.
“We all learn from each other, and we’re all here for a common cause, to pay our respects,” said Ray Bell, a fire captain with the Miami-Dade County Fire Department. “This could happen anywhere… It’s part of the job we do.”
Jannette Martes, who dated Rosa for a year after they graduated from Brethren Christian High School, attended with a group of old friends. “It was such a shock,” she said of hearing the news.
Even back in school, Rosa was “very magnetic, and everybody was attracted to him,” she said.
Darwin Felix grew up with Rosa in Long Beach and remembers the day Rosa let him take his first car, a new red Honda Civic hatchback, for a spin. Felix last saw Rosa, who he said was friends with everyone, a few years ago.
“It was surreal because of the circumstances,” Felix said of his friend’s death. “It took a while to sink in.”
Clarence Avley, a local Boy Scouts leader, knew the Rosa family through Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach. He was with scouts from Troop 21 to honor “a man of stature, strength and leadership.”
A 17-year veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department, Rosa was a Little League volunteer in San Juan Capistrano, the city where he lived.
On June 25, Rosa became the first Long Beach firefighter in 44 years to be killed in the line of duty. He was gunned down while responding to a predawn explosion at the Covenant Manor retirement home. The resident charged with killing Rosa is also accused of wounding two others after attempting to carry out a murder-suicide targeting a woman who lived above him. She was not hurt.
Rosa, 45, leaves behind his wife of 19 years, Lynley, and his two sons.
While the service was underway, firefighters from Orange and Los Angles counties and Oxnard and Ventura staffed the Long Beach fire houses so those who knew Rosa could attend the service.
“This is the first time I have seen a whole Fire Department attend a memorial,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said of his Long Beach colleagues. “Every single dispatcher, firefighter and commander is out there.”