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Suspected Homeless Arsonist Of Westlake Fire That Killed Five Was In U.S. Illegally

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Johnny Josue Sanchez, the 21-year-old man who was arrested after a deadly fire in a disused building Westlake killed five people living inside, is a Honduran citizen who is living in the United States without proper documentation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times also reports that prior to the fire, Sanchez fought with a transgender transient who had entered a part of the derelict building Sanchez considered his own territory. According to ABC-7, police investigators said Sanchez intended to kill that one person, but four additional people—all of whom appeared to be transients as well—were also found dead.

Sanchez first entered the United States in 2012, when he was arrested by Border Patrol agents in Imperial county. Sanchez, then a minor, was released a week later after ICE agents determined he had no prior criminal or immigration violations. Sanchez was monitored thereafter by immigration officials while proceedings for deportation hearings were scheduled to begin.

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The hearings never began, however, for "unknown reasons" according to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. Sanchez stopped reporting to immigration in August of 2014, falling through the cracks of a system that focuses on people with prior recorded criminal activity.

Sanchez, however, was arrested three times in 2016 by the Los Angeles Police Department. In January he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. In both May and June, most recently on June 8, he was arrested for suspicion of drug possession.

Back in 2014, LAPD stopped complying with most federal requests for immigration holds, excepting cases where a court-ordered warrant was issued.

Sanchez now faces five charges of capital murder for the five people killed inside the blaze. Though the building was officially vacant, several homeless people were squatting inside the building. Fire Department officials also inspected the building less than two weeks before the fire broke out.