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LAPD Bomb Disposal Truck Explodes, 17 Injured

Los Angeles, CA – Seventeen people – including six civilians – were injured on Wednesday night when the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) planned detonation of an illegal stash of fireworks went terribly wrong.

The incident occurred at about 7:40 p.m. on June 30 at East 27th and San Pedro Streets in South Los Angeles, KCAL reported.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said police had received a tip earlier on Wednesday about a large cache of illegal fireworks being stored at a home in the 700-block of 27th Street.

Chief Moore said officers investigated the tip and discovered thousands of pounds of “commercial grade fireworks.”

LAPD officers seized more than 5,000 pounds of fireworks and arrested 27-year-old Arturo Cejas in connection with the incendiary stockpile.

LAPD’s bomb squad was called in and technicians and investigators cleared pallets full of explosives from the home, KCAL reported.

The fireworks were loaded into multiple large vehicles and transported off-site to another location for destruction.

But Chief Moore said officers also found “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) inside the home, KCAL reported.

The police chief said the bomb squad loaded the IEDs – which weighed about 10 pounds – into the containment vessel to be detonated on Thursday evening.

He said the bomb technician had estimated that the explosives disposal vessel on the truck should have been able to safely dispose of the homemade bombs, KCAL reported.

The explosion was supposed to be a controlled detonation, but it turned into a massive explosion that rocked houses and shattered windows in a two block radius of the blast.

The detonation even flipped cars that were parked nearby, KCAL reported.

Chief Moore called the explosion “catastrophic.”

KCAL’s news helicopter was filming when the explosion occurred and the video from above showed the truck parked in the middle of the street with some crime scene tape posted up around it.

The video showed that when LAPD’s bomb disposal truck blew up, pieces of the vehicle blew everywhere, and nearby vehicle were lifted into the air.

Debris flew across the roadway and a massive plume of smoke erupted into the air, the video showed.

Law enforcement sources told KCAL that the top of the armored container device on the truck was blasted two blocks away to the east, and took out part of the roof of a house before landing in the backyard.

No information was available yet on how many homes were damaged in the blast, KCAL reported.

Seventeen people were injured in the blast, including six civilians who were in the area when the planned detonation went awry.

Nine LAPD officers and one agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were transported to nearby hospitals for treatment with the wounded civilians, KCAL reported.

Officials have not released the names of any of the civilians or first responders who were injured in the blast.

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) said the victims ranged in age from 42 to 85 year old, and said that 11 were men and five were women, KCAL reported.

Reporters who were there when the explosion happened said that prior to the planned blast, officers had moved them a distance away from the truck where the explosives were to be detonated and yelled “fire in the hole” multiple times.

“When we got over the scene here, we were kind of expecting just some routine thing and to kind of get the shot that was gonna be the bookend to this story of basically this armored canister probably shaking a little bit and smoke coming out at the end of it,” KCAL Desmond Shaw, who was in the helicopter over the scene, said. “And then it just went catastrophically wrong. After it happened, we felt the blast up here, and it just kind of shook up my head a little bit.”

Chief Moore said that officers followed the necessary protocols to destroy the illegal explosives but “something happened in that containment vehicle that should not have happened, and we don’t know why, but we intend to find out why.”

The bomb disposal truck that blew up is supposed to be able to handle up to 15 pounds of IEDs but only held 10 pounds when the explosion erupted.

Residents of the area who were home when the blast occurred said it felt like an earthquake.

Police blocked off a large area around the scene after the explosion, KCAL reported.

Chief Moore said Cejas had bought the fireworks out of state and planned to sell them to people in his neighborhood for their 4th of July celebrations.

Cejas was arrested and booked on suspicion of possessing destructive devices, KCAL reported.

The police chief said the suspect was held on a $500,000 bail.

Chief Moore said Cejas’ 10-year-old little brother was home when police raided the residence looking for the fireworks, KCAL reported.

The child was taken into protective custody and the Department of Children and Family Services was investigating, according to the police chief.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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