Job dispute led to deadly California fire station shooting

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Law enforcement authorities close off a road during an investigation for a shooting at fire station 81 in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. An off-duty Los Angeles County firefighter fatally shot a fellow firefighter and wounded another at their fire station Tuesday before barricading himself at his home nearby, where a fire erupted and he was later found dead, authorities said. (AP Photo/David Swanson)

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — A Los Angeles County firefighter appeared to have a longstanding job-related dispute with the colleague he fatally shot at their small, rural fire station in what was California’s second deadly workplace shooting in less than a week, authorities said Wednesday.

The gunman also critically wounded a fire captain at the station about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Los Angeles on Tuesday before setting his house on fire in a nearby community and apparently killing himself, officials said.

Preliminary interviews with other employees at Fire Station 81 indicate the shooter and the fellow veteran firefighter who was killed had “some workplace beef,” said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Dean, who is overseeing the homicide investigation.

“It sounds like they didn’t like each other,” Dean told The Associated Press, without elaborating.

He said investigators will review the Fire Department’s personnel files to see if any official complaints had been made or disciplinary actions had been taken before the bloodshed. It was not immediately clear how long the two had worked together at the station in Agua Dulce, a rural community of about 3,000 people in the desert of northern Los Angeles County.

The coroner’s office on Wednesday identified the firefighter who died as Tory Carlon, a 44-year-old fire specialist who drove the fire engine. He was shot several times in the upper torso, authorities said. Carlon had three daughters and had been with the department for more than 20 years.

Hundreds of people honored him at a vigil Tuesday night at a park near the station, remembering him as a devoted father and committed firefighter who mentored younger colleagues.

“Together with all Californians, we mourn the tragic and senseless loss of a brave and dedicated firefighter and community leader whose selfless service will not be forgotten,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

Authorities say the gunman was off-duty when he went to the fire station and began shooting, authorities said. He then drove to his house and set it on fire.

As police swarmed the area, he was found dead in an empty pool. It’s believed he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, sheriff’s officials said. Investigators seized a handgun at the home.

The 54-year-old fire captain who was wounded was in critical but stable condition. He is expected to survive, Dean said. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the captain had previously been a deputy before transferring to the Fire Department.

Detectives believe the captain, who wasn’t identified, heard the shooting and went to find the source of the gunfire. It wasn’t clear if he tried to intervene or the attacker turned the gun on him, Dean said.

The gunman was 45-year-old fire specialist Jonathan Tatone, the coroner’s office said. Property records show Tatone owned the home that burned in the community of Acton, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the fire station. He bought it last July.

Tatone was a county firefighter since at least 2012, according to public payroll and pension records kept by Transparent California. Fire Department officials did not immediately release more details about his employment.

The small station where the shooting occurred — one of 172 throughout Los Angeles County — has only four firefighters per shift and 12 total assigned to it. Employees typically work 24 hours at a time and sleep at the station.

Tuesday’s shooting occurred less than a week after Samuel Cassidy, 57, opened fire at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bus and rail yard in San Jose, killing nine of his co-workers and then himself as law enforcement closed in. He had rigged his home to burn before heading to his longtime workplace.

Cassidy had a short fuse at times and a longtime grudge against his workplace, but the exact motive for the shooting was under investigation. Body camera footage from a Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy who went into a building as shots were being fired was released Tuesday.

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Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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