LOS ANGELES — An explosion rocked a South Los Angeles neighborhood Wednesday evening, damaging nearby homes and cars and leaving at least 17 people injured. Among the injured are nine LAPD officers after the bomb squad attempted to detonate improvised explosive devises that were seized at a home along with a large collection of illegal fireworks, according to reports.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said authorities responded to the home, where they found thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks, as well as improvised explosive devices. He described the IEDs as “more unstable.” A suspect identified as Arturo Cejas III was arrested in connection to the items seized at the home, Moore said during the press conference Wednesday night, according to KABC.
Cejas will faces charges of possessing a destructive device but he also may face charges of child endangerment since his 10-year-old brother was in the home, Moore said.
Police seized 40 coke-can-sized improvised explosive devices with fuses and 200 additional smaller devices with similar construction were found. The total haul came to about 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks from the South Los Angeles home, FOX 11 reported.
The items were placed in a “total containment vehicle.” It is equipped with an iron chamber, which is designed to house explosive material for safe detonation. However, something went drastically wrong.
The LAPD bomb squad transferred the IEDs into the containment vehicle, and detonated them shortly after 7:30 p.m., believing it would contain the blast. Moore said there was a “total catastrophic failure of that containment vehicle.” The explosion overturned a car and shattered windows in the neighborhood, Moore said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don’t know why,” he added. “We intend to find out why.”
Earlier, the LAPD tweeted that bomb squad officers were in the process of seizing thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks at the time of the blast. “Some of the fireworks were being stored in our Bomb Squad trailer as a precautionary measure,” the LAPD wrote.
“The final patient count is 17 with 16 of those patients transported by LAFD (one declined transport),” Los Angeles Fire Department reported. The injured included:
- 9 LAPD officers
- 1 ATF agent
- 7 civilians
LAFD also reported several homes and a building were impacted by the blast. One local broadcast reported that a nearby vehicle was overturned due to the over pressure from the explosion.
There are PIOs at scene and this is an ongoing situation in which the area will be impacted for hours due to evacuations, rendering the location safe, and investigation. Updates will be provided as they become available. pic.twitter.com/hatkqQj3ZP
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) July 1, 2021
“There are PIOs at scene and this is an ongoing situation in which the area will be impacted for hours due to evacuations, rendering the location safe, and investigation,” the LAPD noted. “Updates will be provided as they become available.”
Investigators and bomb squad officials responded to the home earlier in the day after receiving a tip from a citizen. A forklift was seen carrying dozens of boxes out of the house, FOX 11 reported.
The Los Angeles neighborhood-shaking explosion comes just days before the Fourth of July weekend, FOX reported.
The @LAPDHQ taking illegal fireworks off the streets. We know, it's a drop in the bucket but it's a drop that might save a life or home. It's a never ending battle and Your #LAFD asks you to not be a part of this problem. Think not just of yourself but think of your neighbors pic.twitter.com/SysfrxxSSl
— #LAFD Talk (@LAFDtalk) June 30, 2021
The city hosted its first fireworks buyback program on Wednesday aimed at reducing illegal fireworks during the upcoming weekend.
The LAPD supports this event and asks people to be safe, help prevent fires during a dry & bad fire season. Let's please be considerate of our neighbors, veterans with PTSD, and pets. Turn in your illegal fireworks & receive a free gift. pic.twitter.com/DV7HvTzasF
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) June 30, 2021
“The LAPD supports this event and asks people to be safe, help prevent fires during a dry & bad fire season,” the department tweeted on Tuesday evening. “Let’s please be considerate of our neighbors, veterans with PTSD, and pets. Turn in your illegal fireworks & receive a free gift.”