LAPD, ATF Investigate Huge Fireworks Explosion in South Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Police Department and federal ATF investigators were combining efforts today to determine what caused a huge explosion that injured 17 people, including 10 law-enforcement officers, after police attempted to safely detonate illegal fireworks that were seized at a house in South Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, a man was in custody Thursday morning in connection with the fireworks.

Around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, police attempted to dispose of some of the approximately 5,000 pounds of fireworks they discovered earlier in the day by detonating them in an armored container in the 700 block of East 27th Street, near San Pedro Street, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a late-night news conference Wednesday.

However, the force of the blast destroyed the container -- and damaged nearby homes, shattered glass in the neighborhood and caused damage to several cars parked on the street.

NBC4 reported Thursday morning that at least a dozen homes were damaged, and that the damage extended at least half a block from the blast.

“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don't know why,'' Moore said. “We intend to find out why.''

Nine LAPD officers and one Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent suffered minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Seven civilians also suffered injuries.

“I'm thankful and grateful (the injuries) are non-life-threatening,'' Moore said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted that he has directed the LAPD “to conduct a full investigation into this incident, so we can better understand why this happened.''

LAPD officers and the Crisis Response Team continued to survey the neighborhood for more injuries and make sure the area was safe, according to Garcetti.

Kenneth Mejia, a candidate for city controller in the 2022 election, called for “an independent auditor to conduct the investigation on why this happened.''

“As city controller, we'd do that and work with experts to get down to what happened and how much money this will cost our city,'' Mejia tweeted. “There needs to be accountability.''

Arturo Cejas III, 27, was arrested on suspicion of reckless or malicious possession of a destructive device. He was being held on $500,000 bail, LAPD Officer Tony Im said.

It was not immediately clear what led up to the arrest.

Moore said the fireworks were brought from out of state “for resale to members of the community.''

He said police also found 40 “Coke-can sized'' devices with fuses attached and 200 smaller devices.

“Those devices are even more unstable than the fireworks,'' Moore said.

Several homes were damaged by the explosion, and Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety personnel were evaluating them to determine if anyone will need emergency shelter.

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said those who want to see fireworks on the Fourth of July should go to a fireworks show and not use purchased fireworks, which are illegal in Los Angeles.

“Every year we see the devastation and the destruction that they cause. Fireworks are no joke,'' he said.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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