Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

SYDLOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating the damage on Thursday and reconstructing what led to an explosion Wednesday night in South Los Angeles that injured 17 people.

“I can not speak for the whole nation, but I’ve never seen it before,” said Ginger Colbrun, an ATF special agent. “And I’ve worked for ATF for over a decade.”

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The explosion of a Los Angeles Police Department truck, caused after a planned police detonation of seized illegal fireworks, happened around 1 p.m. 19:40 at East 27th and San Pedro streets.

Nine LAPD officers and an ATF officer were taken to nearby hospitals along with six civilians. A tenth LAPD officer was injured but was not hospitalized, according to the LA Fire Department.

June 30, 20201. (CBSLA)

Names of the wounded were not immediately released. The inpatients included 11 men and five women, all between the ages of 42 and 85, according to the LAFD.

At a press conference early Thursday morning, the LAPD described all the injuries as mild to moderate.

The blast took place after the LAPD seized over 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks from a nearby home. A 27-year-old man was also arrested.

Ten pounds of the illegal fireworks were placed in a specialized armored truck designed for controlled detonations.

What was supposed to be a controlled detonation, however, turned into a massive explosion. The blast turned cars and shattered windows over a two-block radius. There is no word on how many homes were destroyed. About 12 homes are under mandatory evacuation.

A Los Angeles police officer confirmed Thursday that some residents were not evacuated until the pre-planned detonation.

“Officers went from door to door,” LAPD. Lieutenant Raul Jovel told CBSLA. “After the explosion, they discovered that there were still some people nearby who did not answer the door. And so we discovered that some people were hurt. ”

The boxes of illegal fireworks prior to a detonation went wrong. June 30, 2021. (LAPD)

Journalists at the scene said immediately before the explosion that officers moved them away from the car and shouted “Fire in the hole” several times.

“When we got across the stage here, we were kind of just waiting for some routine stuff and to get the shot that was supposed to be the bookend to this story about this armored container that’s probably shaking a little and smoke coming out at the end of it. “And then it just went catastrophically wrong. After that happened, we felt the explosion up here and it shook our heads a little bit.”

Neighbors described the explosion as “a really hard earthquake.”

On Thursday morning, a large area around the explosion site was cordoned off.

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“During the night, we conducted a review of the surrounding blocks to make sure there were no units dangerous to community members here,” LAPD Lieutenant Raul Jovel told reporters early Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, the LAPD said officers received a tip that there were illegal fireworks hidden in a home in the 700 block of 27th Street. When officers arrived, they found about 5,000 pounds of “fireworks of a commercial nature,” LAPD chief Michel Moore said.

Bomb control technicians and investigators arrived at the scene to remove the fireworks from the home and loaded pallets full of explosives into several large vehicles in the alley behind the home, where they were driven to a location outside of destruction.

June 30, 2021. (CBSLA)

Officers also found what Moore described as “improvised explosive devices” loaded into the detonation containment container. Moore said that at the discretion of the bomb technology, the ship should have been able to safely dispose of the devices.

When officers detonated the explosive, however, Moore said there was a “catastrophic” failure that led to the explosion.

Law enforcement sources told CBSLA that the top of the armored container unit, which can weigh as much as a ton, was blown up two blocks to the east and smashed part of a roof before landing in dirt behind the home.

Moore claimed officers followed the necessary protocols, but “something happened in the containment vehicle that should not have happened, and we do not know why, but we intend to find out why.” The truck is capable of handling up to 15 pounds of IEDs. There were 10 pounds at the time of the explosion.

The LAPD on Thursday waited for national ATF teams to arrive and help assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile, Moore said 27-year-old Arturo Ceja was remanded in custody at the home on suspicion of possessing destructive equipment. According to authorities, Ceja acquired the fireworks outside the state with plans to sell it to residents in the neighborhood for the July 4 holiday.

June 30, 2021. (CBSLA)

Moore also said a 10-year-old child, identified as Ceja’s brother, was found in the home and taken into custody. He said the Department of Children and Family Services is investigating.

Ceja was detained on $ 500,000 bail, Moore said.

The Red Cross has set up a long-term shelter at the Trinity Recreation Center for residents in the approximately 12 homes that have been displaced by the street closures. These closures can last all weekend, police said. Seven residents spent the night in the shelter on Wednesday.

The Martinez family is among those living in the shelter. Jovana Martinez and her brother Japheth pulled into the alley behind their apartment when the explosion took place.

“All our windows are broken, from my bedroom to my brother’s room, everything was broken,” said evacuee Jovana Martinez.

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“Honestly, I do not know what went so wrong that a completely armed vehicle to withstand bombs was destroyed in pieces,” Jafet Martinez added.


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