Lawsuit says police shot man in chaos of fire captain’s death, then punched him at the hospital

Editor’s note: This article was updated Wednesday morning with a response from the Long Beach Police Department.

A 78-year-old man is suing the Long Beach Police Department alleging that police shot him in the abdomen as he was evacuating a retirement home where a firefighter was fatally shot following an explosion in June. Police, however, say there is clear evidence that no officers fired during the incident.

Long Beach Fire Capt. David Rosa was shot and killed by Covenant Manor resident Thomas Kim, 77, on the morning of June 25 after Kim set off an explosion in his apartment.

In their federal lawsuit filed Dec. 6, Covenant Manor residents Vladimir Tsipursky and his wife, Inna, said they were evacuating the building around 4 a.m. due to a fire from the explosion when police responded to the scene and shot Tsipursky in the abdomen.

Police arrested Tsipursky and transported him to St. Mary Medical Center, the lawsuit says. At one point, officers punched Tsipursky in the face while he was at the hospital, it alleges.

In a press release at the time of the incident, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said it was Kim who shot and wounded Rosa, a second firefighter and a resident at Covenant Manor—presumably Tsipursky, although they didn’t identify him by name.

“Physical evidence collected during the initial crime scene investigation was analyzed and the results conclusively indicate that no officer involved shooting occurred,” Long Beach police spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said in an email Tuesday night.

Chavarria said police have asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate “the actions of police and fire personnel regarding the assault allegation made by Vladimir Tsipursky.”

The department has also hired an outside attorney to handle an administrative investigation, she said.

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.

Tsipursky’s lawyer, Dale Galipo, didn’t respond to a message.

While Kim was ultimately arrested and charged in Rosa’s shooting, it appears police may have considered Tsipursky a suspect in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, according to court documents.

A warrant filed hours after the shooting asks for permission to search Kim, Tsipursky and two apartments at the high-rise retirement home. The warrant says the suspected shooter was described to police as a white man in his 60s wearing “a red/black Pendleton-style shirt and blue jeans.”

Tsipursky was wearing “a black/red Pendleton-style shirt and jeans” when he was “detained with a gunshot wound” during the evacuation, according to the warrant. He was taken to the hospital where, “An officer responded and remained with Tsipursky,” the warrant says.

In the next paragraph, the warrant explains how Kim admitted he got scared and started shooting when firefighters responded to an explosion in his apartment.

Kim died in custody in August from a pre-existing medical condition. Kim had diabetes, his brother, George Kim, said.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Tsipursky’s wife, Inna, said she was in shock at the time.

“Someone shot my husband; that’s all I remember,” she said.

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.

Their son, Alex Tsipursky, said police apparently mistook his father for the suspected shooter.

“He was evacuating from the building and got shot,” he said, but declined to go into any more detail about why his family believes that to be the case without consulting with their attorney first.

Prosecutors said Kim had been feuding with a woman who lived above him and set off an explosive device in his apartment in the 11-story complex on the 600 block of Fourth Street with the intent to kill her.

After the explosion in his apartment, prosecutors said Kim reportedly sat at the opposite end of hallway from his apartment and opened fire, killing Rosa and wounding another firefighter as they responded to the scene. He also shot and wounded another “man who lived in the building,” prosecutors said.

Rosa, 45, was a 17-year veteran of the fire department with a wife and two sons.

The lawsuit alleges multiple lapses by the police department including excessive force, false arrest, negligence and civil rights violations.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].