The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay nearly $2.6 million to a former fire department captain who was shot by a fellow firefighter at the Agua Dulce station where they worked.
Capt. Arnoldo Sandoval sued the county last year alleging assault, battery and negligence tied to the June 1, 2021 shooting at L.A. County Fire Station 81. Jonathan Tatone, who shot Sandoval, also fatally shot another fire engineer, Tory Carlon, before later killing himself.
Sandoval suffered serious injury, including paralysis, according to his lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Sandoval said he’d recommended to county authorities that Tatone be transferred to another fire station but that the recommendation was dismissed “as unnecessary.”
In a letter to the board, Dawyn R. Harrison, county counsel, said the $2.575 million settlement was recommended “due to the risks and uncertainties of litigation, and resolution at this time would avoid further litigation costs.”
Richard Kinnan, who represents Sandoval, said the shooting could have been avoided “if they had moved the shooter or fired him.”
“It was a tough case, it was a tragic case,” Kinnan said. “We are very grateful that the county stepped up and settled.”
The L.A. County Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On June 1, 2021, Tatone, who was off-duty, drove to the station and fatally shot 44-year-old Carlon. Fellow firefighters heard Tatone say: “Payback’s a bitch, motherf—!”
When Sandoval stepped outside to investigate the noise, Tatone shot him, too. After Tatone fled the station, he set his Acton house on fire and fatally shot himself.
Sandoval was shot in the stomach and the bullet penetrated his spine, according to Kinnan. As a result, Kinnan said, Sandoval cannot walk without crutches or braces.
The Station 81 shooting stemmed from a workplace dispute between Tatone and Carlon, a career firefighter and father of three girls.
Carlon and Tatone worked different shifts. But when one relieved the other, they were expected to provide a shift “pass down,” detailing what their work day had entailed. Tatone complained that Carlon didn’t finish work that needed to get done on the engines, leaving him to complete the jobs.
In 2019, Carlon began documenting increasingly tense interactions with Tatone in his department calendar and a notebook. At one point he wrote that Tatone told him he didn’t like or respect him and that “things aren’t going to work between us.” He said Tatone told him the next step would be “fists flying.”
Carlon voiced his concerns to L.A. County Fire Department captains and chiefs, his wife Heidi previously told The Times, “but nobody did anything.”
A station captain later told investigators that Carlon had voiced concerns about Tatone, including that his harasser would one day shoot and kill him.
In an interview with investigators soon after the shooting, Sandoval described Tatone as a loner and an aggressive, angry individual who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crew. He said that more than one battalion chief was aware of the issues between Tatone and Carlon.
“Everybody recommended that they be separated,” Kinnan said about Tatone. “This was just festering, festering, festering. You could see it, you could feel it and sure enough one day, he just shot up the place.”
“If there are signs, someone has to take some action,” Kinnan added. “This event could have been avoided, there’s no doubt.”
Heidi and her three children also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against L.A. County and the estate of the gunman, alleging that Tatone’s “dangerous conduct” was known to fire officials for years.
Earlier this year, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge denied the county’s attempt to have the Carlon family’s case dismissed and ruled they could proceed with a claim against the county for wrongful death and negligence.
That case is still ongoing.
Source: LA Times