Relatives of two men killed during a 2018 arson fire at a Studio City music studio are suing the city of Los Angeles, alleging officials were aware before the deaths that the facility lacked fire safety and life-saving equipment and failed to order upgrades of the premises.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Thursday, lays blame with the city’s Police, Fire, Building and Safety and Planning departments and the Housing Authority.
A representative of the City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Efrem Zimbalist Demery Jr., 29, is facing capital murder charges for allegedly setting fire to Top Notch Recordings on Cahuenga Boulevard on April 14, 2018, after a dispute erupted with one or both of the victims.
DeVaughn Cemar Carter, 28, and Michael Pollard Jr., 30, both of Los Angeles, were killed, and a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 20s were critically injured.
The lawsuit was brought by the mothers of the fatally injured victims, Lodie Pollard and Donna Hill. The children of both men also are named as plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.
The lawsuit alleges the city was aware that the building “constituted an ongoing and constant danger” that included a “likely risk of fire … and that in the event of a fire, occupants of the building were likely to die or suffer serious bodily injury” due to violations of building codes and safety provisions.
The city “negligently failed to comply with its own mandatory building, fire and safety codes” by not enforcing them on the property owner, according to the complaint, which alleges that LAPD and/or LAFD members were present on the premises numerous times in the years before the fire and “failed to communicate these hazards to the appropriate authorities so action could be taken to abate the conditions and protect the residents and the public.”
The building lacked properly marked exits, fire extinguishers and adequate lighting, as well as the appropriate fire protection and prevention equipment, the suit alleges.
The criminal complaint against Demery includes allegations that he used an accelerant and committed great bodily injury during the commission of the crime.
Investigators believe that Demery knew and had been together with the deceased victims just prior to the fire. Demery allegedly went across the street from the studio, bought gas at a Chevron station and returned to torch the interior of the building before fleeing out a rear door.
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