LAPD promises probe into illegal fireworks seizure that chief says ended in ‘total catastrophic failure’

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The remains of an armored Los Angeles Police Department tractor-trailer are seen after fireworks exploded Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. (AP)
The remains of an armored Los Angeles Police Department tractor-trailer are seen after fireworks exploded Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. (AP)

The Los Angeles Police Department has promised a full investigation into the illegal fireworks seizure that its chief says ended in “total catastrophic failure”.

A huge explosion injured at least 17 people, including nine police officers, during an attempted controlled explosion in a residential South Los Angeles neighbourhood.

LAPD says its bomb squad had transferred some of the 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks and explosive devices into a specialist truck with an armoured iron chamber.

But when police detonated the fireworks it caused a “total catastrophic failure of that containment vehicle”, admitted Chief Michael Moore.

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

The LAPD is now working with the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to find out the origin of the fireworks and explosives.

And it will carry out a review the actions of the officers to see “what we can do to avoid this type of circumstance from ever happening again”, said Chief Moore.

He promised that the review would include looking at the age and condition of the truck used in the detonation and if there was human error made in calculating the power of the detonation.

The explosion damaged homes, blew up a car park and shattered windows, leaving a pile of debris at the blast site.

Nine LAPD officers and an officer from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sustained minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Among the injured, three individuals are being treated for serious injures, while three others are being treated for minor ones.

Video footage of the explosion that happened on 27th Street and San Pedro Street, around 7.40pm, showed the bomb squad truck exploding with a loud booming sound, leaving a huge cloud of white smoke emanating from the vehicle.

In the aftermath of the explosion, videos showed the specialist truck in a wrecked condition, surrounded by debris from the blast, with glass from a nearby building shattered. Footage also showed a car park, right next to the truck, that was badly damaged.

The LAPD had responded to an anonymous call in the afternoon about the illegal stash of fireworks in a house, reported LA Times. The officers found thousands of pounds of fireworks and other improvised explosive devices which they had decided to detonate at the scene as they were “unstable to move,” officer Tony Im said.

A man named Arturo Cejas III has been arrested on the suspicion of possessing destructive devices and child endangerment after two children were found at the home.

Residents in nearby homes that were damaged from the explosion were evacuated soon after, while two homes were evacuated prior to the explosion.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti said he is monitoring the situation closely and is concerned about those who were hurt.

“I’ve directed the LAPD to conduct a full investigation into this incident, so we can better understand why this happened,” he said. “Illegal fireworks pose a great danger and can cost lives. We will prosecute those who use or possess them to the fullest extent of the law.”

The explosion comes after a massive blast at a home with illegal commercial-grade fireworks killed two people in Ontario. About 40 homes suffered more than $3 million in damage.

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