L.A. Arsonist: Authorities Release Identity of Suspect, Investigation Remains Ongoing
Officials from multiple agencies held a press conference this evening to share information about the arrest of a suspect in a series of 53 arson fires set in the city of Los Angeles, as well as in Burbank and West Hollywood, over the past four days.
24-year-old Harry Burkhart was detained at around 3 a.m. Monday morning, after a LASD reserve deputy spotted the man and matched him to surveillance video of a "person of interest" released by the Task Force over the weekend. (The suspects age was erroneously previously reported as being 55.)
Burkhart was arrested during a traffic stop; previous reports note the suspect was driving a dark minivan with British Columbia, Canada license plates. Following questioning, Burkhart was arrested and is now facing one arson charge. More charges against Burkhart are likely.
Much more information about Burkhart will not be made available tonight, cautioned LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, because the investigation is ongoing. "By no means is this investigation complete," noted L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Beck did not address speculations raised about Burkhart's citizenship or that he may have been motivated by his mother's deportation to his purported home nation of Germany.
Officials, including Beck, Villaraigosa, and LAFD Chief Brian Cummings, spoke of the collective work of the just-formed Joint Task Force, which is comprised of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, and members of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
"Our long four-day nightmare is over," began L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who himself lives just a few blocks from one of the 53 fires allegedly started by Burkhart.
Villaraigosa cautioned that just because a suspect in custody does not mean we should be any less vigilant. Angelenos are being urged to continue to be alert, since the crimes are under investigation. The Mayor also cautioned against copycatters, noting "these crimes will not be tolerated in the city of Los Angeles," adding that should anyone set a copycat carport fire, "know that we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law."
Burkhart is currently being held without bail.