Man accused of killing Long Beach firefighter dies in custody

Thomas Kim, 77, was charged with murdering Long Beach Fire Capt. David Rosa. At his first and only court date, he appeared in a hospital gown and in a wheelchair. Photo by Scott Varley.

The man charged with killing a Long Beach fire captain has died from a pre-existing medical condition, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Thomas Kim, 77, died Sunday just after 3:20 a.m. in a jail ward at USC Medical Center, according to a sheriff’s official.

Authorities would not confirm what Kim’s medical condition was. His brother, however, told the Post that Kim suffered from diabetes for decades.

“He had been sick for a long time,” George Kim said in a phone interview Monday. He said he’d visited his brother in jail about two weeks ago and barely recognized him.

“When I talked to him, he wanted to die,” George Kim said.

Thomas Kim had been jailed since the morning of June 25 when he set off an explosion in his apartment aimed at killing himself and his upstairs neighbor, with whom he’d been feuding about noise, according to authorities.

After firefighters doused the resulting blaze, Thomas Kim opened fire, killing LBFD Capt. David Rosa, grazing firefighter Ernesto Torres and wounding another resident at the apartment complex for low-income seniors where Thomas Kim lived in Downtown Long Beach, according to police.

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

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

“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 Long Beach Fire Department said in a statement.

After officers took Thomas Kim into custody on June 25, he told them he’d begun shooting at Rosa and the others because he was scared, according to a court filing.

In their jailhouse conversation, George Kim said his brother claimed to be in a haze from his sickness and his medication. He reportedly thought people were trying to kill him.

“He completely blacked out,” the brother said. “He couldn’t think.”

George Kim said he hadn’t seen his brother for more than 30 years. He said they’d lost touch after Thomas Kim began frequenting casinos, got divorced and spiraled into depression.

George Kim said he thought his brother had disappeared after a business trip to Mexico, but in reality, he’d been moving from apartment to apartment in Southern California.

https://lbpost.com/news/city/firemen-arent-supposed-to-get-shot-in-emotional-eulogy-family-remembers-shock-of-capt-dave-rosas-death/

During their brief reunion, Thomas Kim told his brother he’d lost his telephone number in all the moves, according to George Kim, but he suspected the real reason he never got a phone call was because Thomas Kim didn’t want to become a burden with his illness and shattered life.

“After [the] divorce, his career, his life, everything’s gone,” said George Kim, adding that he hasn’t been able to find his brother’s ex-wife or daughter.

George Kim said he’s now making preparations to cremate his brother’s body and spread the ashes in the ocean or at a mountainside.

The 80-year-old also hopes to contact Rosa’s family. He said he’s not sure what to say, but he wants to beg for their forgiveness.

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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.
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