Firefighter punched elderly man he thought killed fire captain, DA says

A firefighter won’t face criminal charges for punching an elderly man during the aftermath of a chaotic shooting that killed a beloved member of the Long Beach Fire Department, prosecutors recently revealed.

Firefighter Bradley Robideaux mistakenly thought 78-year-old Vladimir Tsipursky was responsible for the death of Capt. David Rosa, according to a prosecutorial memo outlining the decision not to file charges.

Tsipursky was actually a victim. He was wounded when his neighbor, 77-year-old Thomas Kim, set off a pre-dawn explosion and opened fire on first-responders at the Covenant Manor senior home near Downtown Long Beach on June 25, 2018, authorities said.

According to court documents, police briefly considered Tsipursky a suspect after a witness described the shooter wearing similar clothes.

Because he was shot, Tsipursky was taken to the hospital where firefighters were gathering to mourn Rosa, who died in the emergency room.

Robideaux, who was on-duty during the incident, was at the hospital when word came down that police thought Tsipursky might be the shooter, according to the memo authored by a deputy prosecutor in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Two Long Beach firefighters were shot at a senior apartment building in Long Beach June 25, 2018. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

As Tsipursky was led in, Robideaux punched him, “acting under the mistaken belief that [Tsipursky] had just murdered Captain Rosa,” the deputy district attorney wrote.

The DA’s office considered charging Robideaux with elder abuse and assault. But the situation was “stressful and chaotic,” meaning it would be difficult to prove Robideaux knew Tsipursky was over 65—a requirement for an elder abuse conviction—and the punch left only bruising on Tsipursky’s right eye, the memo says.

After deciding against pursuing any felony charges, the DA’s office passed the case along to the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office, which handles misdemeanors in the city. They decided against charging Robideaux with battery.

A person familiar with the case said it would’ve been extremely unlikely for a jury to convict Robideaux, because he was in the middle of an emotional situation where a colleague was killed.

David Rosa. Photo courtesy the Long Beach Fire Department.

David Rosa. Photo courtesy the Long Beach Fire Department.

Last month, the city prosecutor’s office recommended the situation be handled administratively or through civil litigation instead of criminal prosecution. The decision came about three weeks before the one-year anniversary of Rosa’s death.

It’s unclear if Robideaux faced any discipline. The LBFD declined to disclose any details.

“This matter has been fully reviewed and investigated,” LBFD spokesman Capt. Matt Dobberpuhl said. “The appropriate action has been taken.”

There is a federal lawsuit pending against Long Beach because of the incident. It accuses police of wrongfully detaining Tsipursky and his wife when they were in fact victims of a violent crime.

When Tsipursky’s attorneys filed the case, they accused a Long Beach police officer of being the one who threw the punch, but documents made public this month by the city prosecutor and DA’s office say it was Robideaux.

One of Tsipursky’s attorneys, Dale Galipo, said the lawsuit is in the process of being amended.

Thomas Kim, 77, at his most recent court appearance, while awaiting trial in the death of Capt. David Rosa. Photo by a pool photographer.

Thomas Kim, 77, at his most recent court appearance, while awaiting trial in the death of Capt. David Rosa. Photo by a pool photographer.

It also accused Long Beach police—not Kim—of shooting Tsipursky, something police officials say is completely baseless.

Galipo said he’s disappointed Robideaux was not charged with a crime. He said it shows a double standard in how the law is applied to first-responders.

Robideaux and the union that represents him both declined to talk about the incident.

“It’s a highly charged emotional issue in which one of our guys was murdered,” Rex Pritchard, president of the Long Beach Firefighters Association, said.

Robideaux, who is 32, was in the Marines and worked as an EMT before becoming a firefighter in 2013, according to his Linkedin page.

Kim has since died in jail from natural causes. He admitted to police that he started shooting at firefighters in a panic after he set off a homemade bomb intended to kill his upstairs neighbor whom he’d quarreled with over noise, according to authorities.

Another firefighter was also wounded in the gunfire, but he recovered.

Editor’s note: This article originally stated police detained Tsipursky at the shooting scene and led him into the hospital. Those details are in dispute. Although Tsipursky’s lawsuit and a search warrant say he was detained by police at the senior home, a spokesman for the city of Long Beach said Tsipursky was not taken into custody until after fire department personnel brought him to the hospital and he was punched.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children, Paul and Simon.
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