Bomb squad ‘miscalculated’ weight of fireworks when ‘controlled’ detonation went wrong


Los Angeles police have admitted their bomb squad ‘miscalculated’ the weight of fireworks before a planned controlled explosion which went wrong last month, destroying the team’s armored truck and leaving 17 people injured.

Police had called in a bomb squad on June 30 after a tip led them to seize about 5,000 pounds of illegal home-made and China-manufactured pyrotechnics in a South Los Angeles community.

While most of the fireworks were packed up and shipped away, some were found to be ‘leaking’, and so a ‘total containment vehicle’ designed to safely detonate explosives was brought in.

The vehicle has an iron chamber which is designed to contain 25 pounds of explosives, and officers estimated they were putting in 16.5 pounds in to it, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Monday.

But investigators later weighed the remains of the explosives and calculated that there must have been about 42 pounds of fireworks loaded into the device.

The resultant catastrophic failure of the armored chamber sent a plume of fire into the air, injured 17 people and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. 

Chief Moore gave the update the investigation on Monday morning at the LAPD Headquarters and said an ‘apparent miscalculation’ and ‘human error’ led police to overload the containment truck. 

Los Angeles police said Monday that an ‘apparent miscalculation’ by its bomb squad is what caused a June 30 fireworks explosion that left 17 injured

He described the illegal fireworks as 40 home-made devices the size of Coca-Cola cans with simple fuses and 200 smaller but similar devices

He described the illegal fireworks as 40 home-made devices the size of Coca-Cola cans with simple fuses and 200 smaller but similar devices

While most of the fireworks were packed up and shipped away, some were found to be 'leaking', and so a 'total containment vehicle' designed to safely detonate explosives was brought in

While most of the fireworks were packed up and shipped away, some were found to be ‘leaking’, and so a ‘total containment vehicle’ designed to safely detonate explosives was brought in 

The vehicle has an iron chamber which is designed to contain 25 pounds of explosives, but investigators later weighed the remains of the explosives and calculated that there must have been about 42 pounds of fireworks loaded into the device

The vehicle has an iron chamber which is designed to contain 25 pounds of explosives, but investigators later weighed the remains of the explosives and calculated that there must have been about 42 pounds of fireworks loaded into the device 

LAPD Chief Michel Moore gave the update on Monday morning at the LAPD Headquarters, where he said that ¿human error¿ led to the botched detonation of illegal fireworks

LAPD Chief Michel Moore gave the update on Monday morning at the LAPD Headquarters, where he said that ‘human error’ led to the botched detonation of illegal fireworks

After the initial raid, three box trucks and a 53-foot trailer were brought in to load up the majority of the seized fireworks and move them to a safe location. 

However, ‘improvised explosives’ also were found that were too dangerous to move.

Moore described them as 40 home-made devices the size of Coca-Cola cans with simple fuses and 200 smaller but similar devices.

The material was taken to the containment vehicle, a multi-ton semi-tractor trailer rig with a spherical iron chamber in which the explosives are loaded.

 ‘Based on information gathered at this point, it is believed that the net explosive weight placed into the [vessel] exceeded its rated capacity,’ he said. 

He added that officers didn’t use a scale to weigh the explosives because LAPD protocols allows a physical and visual estimation to suffice. 

The investigation has not yet been closed, however, and Michael Hoffman, assistant special agent with the Los Angeles Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, theorized that the blast could have occurred because of issues with the device itself.

The specific device involved has been used 42 times by the department over the course of a decade. 

Moore said that officers overloaded a 'total containment vehicle' designed to safely detonate illegal fireworks, causing the device to burst open

Moore said that officers overloaded a ‘total containment vehicle’ designed to safely detonate illegal fireworks, causing the device to burst open

The resultant catastrophic failure of the armored chamber sent a plume of fire into the air, injured 17 people and shattered the windows of nearby buildings

The resultant catastrophic failure of the armored chamber sent a plume of fire into the air, injured 17 people and shattered the windows of nearby buildings

The specific device involved has been used 42 times by the department over the course of a decade

 The specific device involved has been used 42 times by the department over the course of a decade

The blast, caught by news crews, knocked a nearby car on its side, smashed the windows of several others and blew out windows in a neighboring home

The blast, caught by news crews, knocked a nearby car on its side, smashed the windows of several others and blew out windows in a neighboring home

The blast, caught by news crews, happened in the 700 block of East 27th Street. It knocked a nearby car on its side, smashed the windows of several others and blew out windows in a neighboring home. 

Nine police officers were injured, along with one ATF officer, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement.

Six civilians, ranging from 51 to 85 years old, were taken to a hospital, three with moderate and three with minor injuries, it said. One other person was treated at the scene but declined to be taken to hospital.

None of the injuries were life threatening.

Police evacuated nearby homes prior to the explosion and building inspectors were evaluating some homes to determine if they were safe.

At Monday’s news conference, Moore confirmed that the supervisor and bomb technicians involved in the operation were removed from the field.

He said, ‘I want to personally express my apologies to every resident, business operator and customer that was dramatically impacted by this incident. I acknowledge that there are many more individuals who were traumatized by the explosion itself.’

Nine police officers were injured, along with one ATF officer, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement

Nine police officers were injured, along with one ATF officer, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement

Six civilians, ranging from 51 to 85 years old, were taken to a hospital, three with moderate and three with minor injuries

Six civilians, ranging from 51 to 85 years old, were taken to a hospital, three with moderate and three with minor injuries

Moore confirmed that the supervisor and bomb technicians involved in the operation were removed

Moore confirmed that the supervisor and bomb technicians involved in the operation were removed

Following the police chief’s update, L.A. City Councilman Curren Price said in a statement, ‘I am infuriated by the preliminary findings that the LAPD and ATF released today. The action taken by LAPD on June 30 fell short of law enforcement’s duty to protect and serve and this act of negligence bears serious consequences not only for the victims, but for the community and our city as a whole.’ 

He added, ‘This is by far one of the LAPD’s largest blunders in recent history, which has further betrayed the trust of our South LA community. My constituents feel that this was a blatant disregard for their safety and our community of color. This tragedy could have been prevented and I wholeheartedly believe that additional safety precautions would have been taken in a more affluent community.’

On Monday, Price’s office launched what he dubbed the ’27th Street Incident Community Resource Center,’ which will set up shop at the YMCA on 28th street in LA and provide victims of the blast with mental health counseling, help filing insurance claims and other supportive services, according to a press release promoting the resource center. 

Meanwhile, Moore said that the LAPD is looking at its protocols for detonating explosives and will make any necessary changes.

He said, ‘We have taken significant steps to strengthen operating protocols, documentation, oversight of any destruction of fireworks and other explosive materials in the city, and more work remains in this aspect of this investigation.’

The fireworks being detonated allegedly belonged to Arturo Cejas III, 27, who was arrested on June 30. He is also faces charges of child endangerment because a minor, Cejas’ 10-year-old brother, was found at his home where the fireworks were seized. He is being held on $500,000 bail. 



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