LAPD bomb squad set off massive fireworks explosion, police chief says

Los Angeles bomb technicians miscalculated the weight of the homemade fireworks in a containment chamber that resulted in a “catastrophic” explosion that 17 people injured in south Los Angeles, the authorities announced on Monday.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore said five bomb squad members were withdrawn in the blast while they investigated further.

The explosion – which damaged dozens of homes, businesses and vehicles just days before July 4 – was highly unusual, officials said, as such containment chambers are designed to contain explosions. Bomb technicians, however, overloaded it above security clearance, even as authorities investigate whether the detonation device had a fault.

The incident prompted the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI to review police protocols regarding the detonation of explosives. The police department now requires a captain to approve detonations, in addition to the two bomb technicians and a supervisor that are already required.

The June 30 explosion sent nine police officers and an officer from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to hospital with minor injuries, said fire chief Ralph M. Terrazas .

Six civilians, aged 51 to 85, were also taken to hospital, and one person who was not transported was instead examined at the scene, firefighters said. The explosion damaged or destroyed 13 businesses, 22 residential properties and 37 vehicles, Moore added.

Police arrested resident Arturo Ceja, 26, on suspicion of possessing a destructive device. Police believe the fireworks were purchased in Nevada and taken to Los Angeles to be sold in the neighborhood for use on July 4.

Ceja was released on $ 500,000 bail and is due to return to court in October. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Prior to the explosion, police spent the day collecting and disposing of thousands of pounds of fireworks in South Los Angeles that exploded off the site. They then confiscated 280 M-80s and 44 explosives the size of a can of soda, Moore said.

Officers found some leaking and found the devices unstable to transport and detonate in a detonation chamber known as the full containment vessel, officials said.

Bomb technicians estimated the weight of the explosives at 16.5 pounds. without using a ladder, Moore said. The vessel is designed to support a maximum of 25 pounds for single use and 15 pounds for multiple uses. An investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team found that the actual weight of the explosives exceeded 42 pounds.

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“Although these investigations are not complete, based on information gleaned from interviews conducted as well as in consultation with other anti-bomb squad operations, here both locally and across the country, we have taken significant steps to strengthen operational protocols, documentation, monitoring, etc. of any destruction of fireworks or other explosive materials in the city, ”Moore said at the press conference.

Moore also apologized to members of the community who were affected by the blast, acknowledging the “many more traumatized individuals.” The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and other organizations will have their own press conference on Tuesday to demand more responses and reparations for residents who were injured in the blast. Some victims have filed complaints – the precursor to lawsuits – against the city.

LA City Councilor Curren Price released a statement Monday after the press conference, calling the explosion an “act of neglect.”

“This is by far one of the biggest blunders for the LAPD in recent history, which has further betrayed the trust of our southern LA community,” Price said in the statement. “My constituents feel this was a blatant disregard for their safety and our community of color.”

South Los Angeles, where the explosion occurred, is home to mostly black and Latino residents who occupy 38% and 56.2% of the population, respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times Mapping LA Project.

The 5 of July, the South Central Neighborhood Council adopted a resolution demanding that the city financially compensate those affected by the explosion. They called the act a “reckless decision by the Los Angeles Police Department” because it primarily impacted the well-being of a black and Latino community.

“Pending the release of the final report, I hope the Los Angeles Police take the necessary steps to address their shortcomings and develop plans to scale up and support the victims of the devastation who have been traumatized and will suffer the effects for years to come, ”Price said.

Contribute: The associated press

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