Los Angeles, CA – Four members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) bomb squad were disciplined for their roles in the flawed detonation of confiscated illegal fireworks in a residential neighborhood that left 17 people wounded and 22 homes damaged.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore made the announcement on July 2 and said that his department had also implemented new protocols to make sure that another such incident wouldn’t happen again, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The explosion occurred on June 30, 2021, when the LAPD bomb squad was attempting to do a controlled explosion of illegal fireworks inside a bomb disposal unit on East 27th Street near San Pedro Street in South Los Angeles.
Chief Moore said police had received a tip about a large cache of illegal fireworks being stored at a home in the 700-block of 27th Street, KCAL reported.
The police chief 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.
Sixteen people were injured after a planned detonation of seized illegal fireworks ended in an explosion in South Los Angeles, according to CBS News pic.twitter.com/PXvV6z8Ar4
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 1, 2021
Federal investigators determined that the bomb squad members had erred when they guestimated the amount of explosives contained in the fireworks, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The moment the explosion happened.
— People's City Council – Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) July 1, 2021
Interviews with members of the bomb squad by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) revealed that some members of the bomb squad didn’t know what the actual rated explosive capacity was for the containment vessel they had been using to blow things up since 2008.
Seventeen residents and first responders were seriously injured in the explosion and transported to hospitals for treatment, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The explosion also damaged 22 nearby residences, 13 neighborhood businesses, and 37 vehicles that were parked in the blast zone.
“Work to stabilize and repair 27th Street began immediately following the 2021 fireworks disposal explosion,” Chief Moore said in a statement on July 2. “While our work in the community was underway, the Department also invested in a top to bottom internal review and implemented significant corrections.”
“A full investigation was conducted which examined the actions of the personnel on scene that day, and also conducted an in-depth review of the practices and protocols of the Bomb Squad,” the statement continued.
“As a result of this investigation, four Bomb Squad personnel were subject to Departmental discipline based on their involvement in this incident. Additionally, this review resulted in the implementation of new protocols for the Bomb Squad to prevent any similar events from occurring in the future, and to ensure the safety of both community members and officers,” the statement from the police chief read.