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Criminal Justice

In Botched Fireworks Detonation, Police May Have Overloaded Explosives Vessel

An image of LAPD Chief Michel Moore addressing a press conference on Monday, July 19. He is standing behind a podium on the front of which is an LAPD plaque that reads "To Protect And Serve." Behind him is ATF Assistant Special Agent In Charge Michael Hoffman and also visible are photos on easels of damage to cars and buildings caused by the explosion of fireworks.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore outlined preliminary findings of a federal investigation into the botched fireworks detonation in South L.A. on June 30. Behind him is ATF Assistant Special Agent In Charge Michael Hoffman.
(Robert Garrova / LAist )
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A miscalculation could be to blame for the LAPD’s botched detonation of illegal fireworks in South L.A. last month, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Monday.

The chief said investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives believe officers put more explosives in a special containment vessel than it was rated to handle, causing a catastrophic failure.

On June 30, police were trying to safely detonate some of the 32,000 pounds of illegal fireworks found at a house on East 27th Street, a step taken whenever the bomb squad believes transporting the explosives might be more dangerous.

But something went terribly wrong, and the resulting explosion ripped apart the total containment vessel (TCV), injured 17 people, displaced dozens of residents and caused severe damage to residential and business property.

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The TCV’s maximum design capacity “is for a one-time detonation of 25 pounds of C4 explosive or its equivalent,” Moore told a news conference. He said the bomb squad estimated the weight of the fireworks by appearance, rather than using a scale, and guessed they weighed about 16 pounds.

ATF investigators have calculated that the actual net explosive weight was more than 42 pounds, Moore said.

The findings announced by the chief are preliminary, he said. Investigators are also looking into whether there was a defect in the TCV, which might have contributed to the extent of the blast damage, Moore said.

The Local Council Member Is 'Infuriated'

The supervisor and bomb technicians involved in the explosion have been removed from the field pending the outcome of the investigation, the chief said.

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“If established standards and protocols were not met — including the actions of the bomb technicians or the supervisors — then certainly, discipline and consequences for that must occur,” Moore said.

City Council Member Curren Price, who represents the area where the blast occurred, said the preliminary findings left him “infuriated.” He issued a statement saying his constituents feel the incident betrayed “a blatant disregard for their safety and our community of color,” and added, “I wholeheartedly believe that additional safety precautions would have been taken in a more affluent community.”

Price called for steps “to ensure that such a disaster never occurs again in any part of our City!”

The council member also said on Twitter his office would launch the “27th Street Incident Community Resource Center” at the 28th Street YMCA Monday, where affected residents can file a claim as well as receive mental health and other supportive services.

So far there have been 56 claims for damages filed with the city, said a spokesperson for City Attorney Mike Feuer.

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