Community activists and some city leaders say they are not satisfied with the LAPD’s explanation about the “miscalculation” that led to the dangerous detonation of illegal fireworks in a South Los Angeles neighborhood some three weeks ago.
“It is not a miscalculation. It cannot just be explained away,” said Paula Minor of Black Lives Matter-LA during a rally outside LAPD headquarters on Tuesday. “You do not detonate explosives in a neighborhood. ... If this had been another neighborhood, not a working-class Black and Brown neighborhood in South LA, they would not have detonated those explosives.”
This week, residents got some answers about how and why their family and friends were injured, and their homes and cars were damaged and destroyed.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released a preliminary report. It blamed LAPD bomb squad technicians, saying they probably underestimated the weight of the explosives that were put inside a specialized armored truck designed for controlled detonations.
“Whether personally injured as were 17 community members, or the property loss incurred by 13 businesses, 22 residential properties and 37 vehicles that were damaged or destroyed, I’m sorry this had occurred,” LAPD Chief Michael Moore said at a press conference this week.
Part of the problem, Moore said, was that safety protocols limit the handling of explosive devices, and officers may have had to estimate the weight of the explosives without handling them. Moore added that the supervisor and bomb technicians involved in this incident have been removed from the field for now while the incident continues to be investigated.
LA City Councilmember Curren Price told KCRW he accepts the LAPD apology but that much more is required. Price, who represents South Central LA, also said he was “infuriated” by the preliminary findings.
“We need more than just an apology. We want answers. We want to make sure that those who were responsible for seeing the discipline as needed.”
Price also called on the LAPD to reevaluate its protocols to minimize human errors.
“Initially the bomb squad thought there were 16 pounds of explosives. It turned out they were 42. That's a big difference. We need to look at the framing protocol and the process procedure. [We need to] understand why it happened this time to make sure it doesn't happen again — not just in South LA but any place around the city.”
The councilmember claimed the City of Los Angeles was dragging its feet in providing resources to victims who literally had to pick up the pieces at their homes or businesses.
“The city has been slow to act,” said Price, whose office established emergency resources to provide housing, shelter, clothing and food to those affected by the explosion. “We’ve got to act quickly. The city was at fault. We need to get them financial support. Frankly, a lot of my residents don’t have the money [for food and resources] and then get reimbursed.”
Meanwhile, the man who was allegedly planning to resell the illegal fireworks has been charged with illegally transporting tons of explosives and is set to be arraigned next month.
Community members have said they are more concerned with holding the police accountable for detonating the explosive devices and with seeking services and compensation for the residents.
“We’re hoping to get criminal charges against whoever did the order for negligence and for putting in danger the community,” Martha Sanchez, of the South Central Neighborhood Council, told KCRW earlier this month. “We’re hoping also to get justice and a measure that would prevent, in the future, for any entity, regardless of who it might be, to make decisions without consulting the right person, the right community.”