The court case against a man accused of gunning down a Long Beach firefighter officially ended Wednesday, 10 days after he died in a jailhouse medical ward.
Thomas Man Kim, 77, was scheduled to appear this morning in Long Beach Superior Court, but because Kim is now dead, Judge Tomson T. Ong took the bench and immediately asked prosecutors how they’d like to proceed.
“Given that, your honor, I’m not sure what the proper thing is,” prosecutor Geoffrey Lewin said, before asking the judge to dismiss the case.
“Motion granted. Thank you,” Ong said, ending the hearing.
It lasted about two minutes.
Less than two months earlier, Kim had sent the Long Beach Fire Department into mourning when authorities said he set off an explosion at his apartment and then opened fire on the firefighters who responded, grazing one of them and fatally wounding Fire Capt. David Rosa.
A note Kim wrote had revealed that he set off the explosion in an attempt to kill himself and his upstairs neighbor, whom he’d been feuding with over noise, according to prosecutors. After police arrested him at the scene, he told officers he started shooting at rescuers because he’d gotten scared, according to court documents.
Kim’s estranged brother, who visited him in jail, said Kim was sorry for what he did.
“He was remorseful,” Kim’s public defender, Carol DiSabatino, said after Wednesday’s hearing.
DiSabatino originally had trouble communicating with Kim because he was sick, but she later was able to talk to him, although she never discussed the facts of the case against him or any possible motive for what he allegedly did, according to DiSabatino.
Kim had long battled diabetes, his brother, George Kim said.
Thomas Kim discovered he had the disease while working abroad as an engineer after a gambling addiction broke up his marriage, according to his brother.
The disease had progressed to the point that Thomas Kim’s kidneys failed, George Kim said.
“When I talked to him, he want[ed] to die,” he previously told the Long Beach Post.
Contrary to speculation from some of his neighbors at the low-cost senior housing where he lived, Thomas Kim did not have cancer, DiSabatino said.
After news of Thomas Kim’s death broke last week, the fire department issued a statement expressing their dismay at the outcome.
“Although we’re devastated that this man will never stand trial for the murder that he committed, our focus remains on protecting the Rosa family and the memory of the many honorable and loving contributions that Capt. Rosa made to his family and the community,” the statement said.
As for Rosa’s family, they’re continuing to ask for privacy, fire officials said.
Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.
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