VOICES-On June 30, Los Angeles Police Newton Division received information that there was a large cache of illegal fireworks located at a residence on East 27th Street at San Pedro Street.
Police officers responded to the location and confirmed the presence of illegal fireworks. According to local news reports it was estimated there were over thirty thousand pounds of illegal fireworks stored outside the backyard and side area of the residence. Newton Division command staff immediately contacted the Los Angeles Police Bomb Squad Unit and requested their assistance.
It is unclear how long the LAPD was at the location on 27th Street and when the streets were officially closed off to all vehicular traffic except police vehicles. From information gathered, which might not be completely accurate, LAPD was on site for more than nine hours prior to the attempted destruction of the illegal fireworks.
Once the Bomb Squad arrived on scene, they subsequently removed boxes of illegal fireworks which were safely transported to a safe location. This removal was aired on local television stations.
Because LAPD has been evasive, it is unclear when they made the decision to request residents to vacate and evacuate from their residences.
This is what we do know. The bomb squad employees discovered boxes of homemade illegal fireworks. The devises appeared to be the size of a soda can or a small can of beer. They were wrapped in what appeared to be brown paper and each contained a fuse. News media reported the contents were identified as some type of explosive material.
A decision was made by unnamed individuals to place these illegal fireworks items into the Los Angeles Police Departments Bomb disposal container and then detonate them.
According to the LAPD, each resident on 27th Street was contacted prior to the detonation and advised to leave their homes, and each were given an explanation as to why they were being requested to leave.
Prior to the detonation, was LAPD able to identify the type of explosive material that had been placed inside each of the homemade illegal fireworks?
On June 30, at approximately 7:30 p.m., LAPD Bomb Unit detonated the illegal fireworks. The blast could be heard as far away as Highland Park and Eagle Rock, located in the Northeast Los Angeles area.
As a result of the massive catastrophic explosion, more than 17 people were injured, including LAPD officers, one ATF special agent and many residents of the community. Injuries consisted of major, moderate to minor. Even a TV reporter who was flying above the location at the time of the blast sustained injuries and sought treatment at a hospital. Many of the injuries were caused by flying glass from fallen items inside residences as well as ruptured ear drums.
At least three homes have been red tagged and others sustained major damages. Many parked vehicles also sustained major damages, and many were completely totaled -- all on 27th Street. Homes, apartments, and several businesses up to more than a half mile away from the blast site sustained damages. The Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb disposable container and carrier were also completely destroyed.
On Monday evening July 12, at 5p.m., a community forum was held at the Trinity Recreation Center, 2415 Trinity Street, South Los Angeles, organized by the South Central Neighborhood Council. The community residents – the residents most impacted by this disaster -- demanded answers and explanations as to what actually took place. They wanted the names of the individuals responsible for making the decision to detonate highly dangerous explosive devices in the middle of the street located in a highly populated residential community.
There was a panel of individuals present to answer questions from those in attendance. LA City Councilmember Curren Price, recently promoted LAPD Deputy Chief Alfred Labrada, LAPD Commander David Kowalski (in charge of the LAPD Bomb Unit), a representative from the Los Angeles City Attorney's office, and Los Angeles Building and Safety were among them.
Deputy Chief Labrada stated, “We know there's a lot of anger towards the LAPD and we understand that. We also know there is a lot of trauma.” Of major interest is that Labrada stated that LAPD officers contacted Councilman's Price's office early on June 30, appraising him of the events taking place on 27th Street. Councilman Price stated, not once but twice, that at no time did LAPD contact his office about what was taking place on 27th Street. He said he only became aware of the events after the massive catastrophic explosion.
It would be fair and honest to state that Labrada was evasive in answering more directed questions by the community residents. When asked by community members to name those individuals responsible for making the decision to detonate the explosive devices in a residential community and in the middle of street, he refused, stating, “that information would be provided by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who have been requested by LAPD Chief Moore to conduct a complete investigation.”
Labrada also refused to answer a question from a male community member who wanted to file a victim of crime report so that his minor children could receive mental health services. Labrada was not going to acknowledge that LAPD committed a crime.
Commander Kowalski also refused to identify by name those who made the decision to blow up the illegal fireworks. By the time the first police officers arrived at the 27th Street location more than six hours had passed before the detonation of the illegal fireworks took place. Commander Kowalski initially refused to state if he himself had responded to the 27th Street location. He subsequently acknowledged that he did not and refused to explain why.
Councilman Price said his staff set up the one-stop assistance center at the Trinity Recreational Center. This center will continue to operate until 6 p.m. on July 16, 2021.
Community residents could file claims for damages with a representative from the LA City Attorney's office, seek services for mental health care, assistance from the Red Cross and assistance from Price's office for housing and food.
Price stated that on this date, his office staff arranged to provide new appliances for six families. They already had provided food assistance and motel vouchers for the displaced families.
The representative from the LA City Attorney's office was not that helpful. He even told one resident who had severe property damage to go out and hire an engineer. The resident responded by asking how he was going to afford to hire an engineer? He couldn’t even enter his home. His vehicle had been destroyed and he couldn’t get to work.
Residents were told it would take months to receive any type of payment from the City of Los Angeles.
The city would not reimburse the residents for damaged items unless the owner could provide receipts for what was damaged. Questions as to who is going to pay for the window replacements were not addressed. Councilman Price did state he is going to try to find a way to pay for that.
The biggest joke of all is when the representative from LA City Department of Building and Safety stated they were only looking at those structures damaged on one block -- not on the three immediate blocks or the structures damaged up to a half mile away. One resident stated that Building and Safety told them it was safe to reenter and again reside in their home. The homeowner said that one of the walls was not stable and might fall. The Building and Safety representative told them they could stay in their home, but “just don't lean against the wall.”
One resident said she had a child with special needs and her husband was disabled. She had no money to buy needed items. Immediately, people in attendance walked up to her and gave her money. Even folks who had themselves been impacted by this disaster gave her a couple of dollars.
What was so disheartening was that not one of the LAPD officers seated – namely, Labrada, Kowalski or an unnamed Captain sitting behind Labrada -- made any attempt to assist this mother in need. The location of this disaster is in a very poor low-income area of Los Angeles. What a difference it would have made if these officers of rank had reached into their own pockets to assist this resident. Any small sign of empathy is worth more than a million dollars. All three of the officers of rank failed to show that they gave damn about these impacted residents.
Each of the impacted residents had the opportunity to share their concerns. One stated he was told that only one member of his family at a time could receive mental health care. This was from a private source, and he did not have the funds to pay for the care.
One female, a single mother who has a full-time job, said her home, which is paid for and where she had lived for more than 36 years, was red tagged. She received a motel voucher from Councilman Price’s office but the motel in question was located in a bad area that is dirty and where there are hookers and drug dealers. There is no area where she can cook meals for her family. She also stated that both the city and county of Los Angeles do more to help the homeless and criminal population than for people like herself and others in her community who have now become victims of a disaster caused by the city.
I communicated with Ms. Sanchez who provides both Marriage and Family Counseling. She stated that she had spoken with most of the residents who reside on 27th Street and was told by many that they were never contacted by the LAPD on June 30.and asked to vacate their homes. Nor were they told what was taking place. Many believed someone was making a movie.
Ms. Sanchez said that early on after the explosion she contacted Councilman's Price office and recommended that he set up a One Stop Service Program at the Trinity Recreation Center. Ms. Sanchez also said not one Los Angeles County Service Agency has responded to assist the residents of her community.
I communicated with Councilman Price and asked him why ATF would be conducting the investigation surrounding the massive explosion when one of their own agents was present at the site and also sustained injuries as a result of the massive explosion? Was this not a CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
Price stated that he was not aware an ATF agent was present on the date and time of the explosion.
I also asked Price if he had made a special motion before the Los Angeles City Council to ask for millions of dollars for immediate assistance for these impacted families. He stated that he did make a motion but that other city council members had not acted on his motions request.
I also suggested to him that he immediately rent Airbnbs for these displaced families so that all of the family members could be together.
Like most forums there are always people who show up with their own agendas and want to cause disruptions; there were agitators at this forum.
What was sad is that when those individuals affected by this disaster were talking and addressing Councilman Price and others at the head table, these agitators were yelling profanities and sharing their displeasures with LAPD. Everyone saw firsthand the backsides of these folks. I might add there were many small children at this event and these agitators displayed no respect whatsoever for those in attendance and even for themselves.
This forum was for those individual residents affected by this massive explosion -- not for those who hate police and want to call them every filthy name in the book.
There was also a group of four females and one male holding up signs that said, WE LOVE LAPD, WE SUPPORT LAPD. This group also showed their backsides. When the people impacted by this horrific event addressed the panel members, these agitators (four females and one male) blew horns in their attempt not to allow them to speak. This would have been the perfect time for Deputy Chief Labrada to speak up and tell the disrupters, “Thank You for your Support of LAPD but please allow these individuals who have been impacted by this disaster to communicate their concerns to us.”
But Labrada kept his mouth shut!
What needs to be stated is that this area of 27th Street and San Pedro falls under the district supervised by Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Mitchell has been missing in action. She has done nothing to assist these residents who she represents.
I might add that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Mental Health services has also done nothing to assist these residents either.
Just today, local television news announced that the LA County Board of Supervisors has allocated $500 million for homeless people. Yet they can't allocate any funds for these Los Angeles County residents impacted by this disaster.
Yesterday Governor Newsom, along with LA City Councilmember Kevin De León and Mayor Garcetti, were in El Sereno where the Governor announced more free giveaways of taxpayers’ dollars. In fact, Mayor Garcetti felt it was more important to travel to Washington DC on the taxpayers’ dime to have a photo op with the LA Dodgers than to ask what in the hell happened in South Central LA. Not once has Newsom or Garcetti traveled down to 27th Street to view firsthand the results of the massive explosion caused by LAPD. This event has caused so much despair for the residents and businesses in this South Central Neighborhood.
(Caroline Aguirre is a retired 24-year State of California law enforcement officer, LAPD family member, community activist and Neighborhood Watch captain. Aguirre is a CityWatch contributor.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.