Former LACoFD captain receives $2.6M settlement in fatal firefighter shooting
Captain Arnoldo Sandoval filed a lawsuit over the 2021 firehouse shooting when Firefighter Jonathan Tatone killed Fire Engineer Tory Carlon and wounded Sandoval
By Brittny Mejia
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. — 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 in 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 that 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.
In a statement, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger called the shooting “tragic” and “still painful.”
“There continues to be a lot of community trauma related to this incident that took the life of a brave and selfless firefighter and harmed countless others,” Barger, whose district includes Station 81, said in a statement. “It is my hope that, with the new leadership change at our County’s Fire Department and a greater focus on employee wellness — an incident like this will be prevented and never occur again.”
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.
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Carlon and Tatone worked different shifts. But when one relieved the other, they were expected to provide a shift “pass down,” detailing what their workday 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 on his department calendar and in 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. “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 ongoing.