Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Monday human error likely contributed to a destructive fireworks explosion in South Los Angeles, with bomb squad technicians vastly underestimating the amount of explosive material placed into a containment truck.
The June 30 blast occurred as the Los Angeles Police Department attempted to detonate a cache of illegal fireworks that were deemed too unstable to move. The resulting explosion destroyed an LAPD explosives containment vehicle, damaged multiple homes and injured 17 people.
Moore said a preliminary investigation has determined that bomb squad technicians estimated they were placing about 16 pounds of explosive material in the containment truck, which was capable of handling a blast of up to 24 pounds. But the actual amount of explosive weight placed in the vehicle appears to have actually exceeded 42 pounds.
“We have miscalculations that are significant,” Moore said.
Moore insisted that bomb squad technicians were “operating with the best intentions” in a stressful situation. But he said if mistakes were made in estimating the weight of explosive material placed in the truck, “I will hold the appropriate individuals accountable.”
He said the bomb squad has already begun implementing new procedures as a result of the explosion.
The explosion has heightened tensions among South Los Angeles residents, many of whom are demanding full accountability from the LAPD and accusing the department of showing disregard for the neighborhood by detonating fireworks in the middle of a lower-income residential area. Some have suggested that department members face criminal charges.
During Moore’s news conference, one protester began shouting at the chief, hurling expletives and demanding his resignation or firing.
At 3 p.m., a 27th Street Incident Community Resource Center to assist affected residents will open at the YMCA at 1006 E. 28th St., according to the office of City Councilman Curren Price.
The resource center will serve as the designated location where victims can connect with a wide range of services, including opportunities to file a claim, obtain mental health and wellness referrals, as well as other supportive services
Transitioning from the Local Assistance Center at Trinity Recreation Center, the new site will include representatives from Price’s office, the city attorney and city clerk, mental health and wellness staff, as well as members of the non-profit All Peoples Community Center who will offer food and clothing.
The blast on East 27th Street sent 17 neighbors and first responders to the hospital and destroyed the LAPD bomb squad truck, which Moore said has been used more than 40 times over the past decade. Since the explosion, victims who were forced to evacuate their homes have been provided with access to housing, funds needed to satisfy their basic needs like clothing, as well as three meals a day.
“The truth of the matter is the victims of this explosion do not have the luxury of waiting. People are hurting and they need help now,” Price said. “At this moment, we are left to pick up the pieces and we need to do whatever we can to help the people that are suffering.”
Authorities have said about 32,000 pounds of fireworks were being stored at a home on East 27th Street, from where they were being sold. The home’s resident, Arturo Ceja III, 27, was charged with illegally transporting tons of explosives. He is set to be arraigned Aug. 2.
Prosecutors said Ceja purchased most of the explosives from a dealer in Pahrump, Nevada. In addition to the commercial fireworks, the initial search of Ceja’s residence led to the discovery of more than 140 other homemade fireworks — typically referred to M devices of varying sizes — as well as explosives-making components, including hobby fuses that matched the fuse on a homemade mortar shell wrapped in tin foil discovered inside the residence, according to a court affidavit.