Friends say slain fire captain was a man of compassion: ‘He didn’t know anyone he saved; he just saved them’

Cori Armstrong, friend of Long Beach Fire Captain David Rosa, is overcome for a brief moment as family, friends, and co-workers of Rosa talk about the life of the fallen fire captain in Long Beach July 2, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

He hated sunflower seeds, loved baseball, was a notorious germaphobe and could tell stories that kept listeners rapt no matter how many times they’d heard them before.

But friends and family who spoke to the media Monday about Long Beach Fire Capt. David Rosa, who was slain a week ago while on a call, talked mostly about his compassion for others.

“He led with his heart, soul and hands,” said Cori Armstrong, who worked with Rosa as part of the San Juan Capistrano Little League.

Long Beach fire and police officials arranged the panel discussion with Rosa’s family and friends the day before his memorial service, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Long Beach Arena. As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend.

Rosa was fatally shot while responding to an explosion at a Downtown Long Beach senior-living building on June 25. The death of the 17-year Long Beach veteran sparked a massive outpouring from the first-responder and Long Beach communities.

Rosa was a husband, father, friend and firefighter—and that’s what those closest to him want the world to remember.

Long Beach Fire Department Parametric Josh Hogan hugs Cori Armstrong after family, friends, and co-workers of David Rosa talk about the life of the fallen fire captain in Long Beach July 2, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova

He was a man of deep conviction his cousin, Craig Wilson, said—a sentiment echoed by Jonathan Wood, a close friend from church. His priorities were his Christian faith, his family and the fire department, in that order, Wilson said.

Wood told the story of the Good Samaritan, about a man in need of help who was passed by twice before a Samaritan stopped.

“That was Dave,” Wood said. “He didn’t know anyone he saved; he just saved them.”

Rosa, 45, grew up Long Beach where he attended Los Cerritos Elementary School and Hughes Middle School before graduating from Brethren Christian High School in Huntington Beach. He was a Long Beach junior lifeguard and played water polo, football and baseball.

Rosa had wanted to be a firefighter since he was a kid, Wilson said. He got his start in the fire business at 16, after joining the Los Angeles County Fire Explorers Program. He worked as an emergency medical technician for four years before earning his paramedic license in 1995.

Rosa was hired by the Long Beach Fire Department in 2001, working assignments at several stations, including Station 10 in Central Long Beach and Station 11 in North Long Beach.

The fact that he became a fire captain was a testament to his character and perseverance, Wilson said, because learning and test-taking didn’t always come easy to him.

Left to Right: Long Beach Fire Department Jake Heflin, Jonathan Wood, Cori Armstrong, Nick Markouizos, Josh Hogan and Craig Wilson as family, friends, and co-workers of Long Beach Fire Captain David Rosa talk about the life of the fallen fire captain in Long Beach July 2, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova

Rosa helped make the baseball field in his hometown of San Juan Capistrano a reality, Armstrong said, and he was extremely proud of it. It was then that he developed an extreme hatred of sunflower seeds, which are often strewn about the stands and fields of ballparks.

He went so far as to get seeds banned from the snack bar and put up signs around the field that simply said, “No seeds,” which prompted his team to stack piles of seeds beneath them as a joke, Armstrong said.

Nick Markizous, a paramedic who worked with Rosa for six years, said his partner would “decon” the fire trucks meticulously to rid it of germs.

“He was afraid of being exposed to anything,” his partner said.

Markizous told a story about being on a call with Rosa, a fully involved structure fire, when the two men decided they were going to “fight fire” by going up a ladder, into the building itself.

When they approached the structure, the door handle of the building fell off and they were immediately blasted with heat and smoke.

“We were humbled,” Markizous said. “That will humble you.”

Rosa was also a devoted family man, those in attendance said. He left behind a wife, Lynley, and two boys, Alec, 26, and Sam, 15. He also leaves his parents, Paul and Jean Rosa, a sister, Julia Hensley, and his dog Molly.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.