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27-year-old arrested in Los Angeles explosion had 16 tons of illegal fireworks, feds say

Police officers stand guard after illegal fireworks seized at a South Los Angeles home exploded, in South Los Angeles Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. A cache of the illegal fireworks exploded, damaging nearby homes and cars and causing injuries, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Police officers stand guard after illegal fireworks seized at a South Los Angeles home exploded, in South Los Angeles Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. A cache of the illegal fireworks exploded, damaging nearby homes and cars and causing injuries, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

AP

A 27-year-old man who stored 16 tons of illegal fireworks at his home, leading to an explosion that injured 17 people, has been arrested, federal officials say.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Arturo Ceja III on Saturday on suspicion of transporting explosives without a license, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Wednesday night, Los Angeles police tried to safely detonate some of the cache but a containment vehicle failed, resulting in a blast that damaged homes and injured 17 people, McClatchy News reported.

A 500-pound lid to the containment vehicle was later recovered from a yard three to four blocks away from the South Los Angeles blast, KTLA reported.

Police and federal agents are still investigating what went wrong with the explosion, which flipped over vehicles and smashed windows, according to the station. Nine police and one federal agent were among the 17 hurt.

“All we hear was just a boom and then the next thing you know, everything just fell on the ground, our shelves, book shelves, everything,” Miguel Avila, a neighbor displaced by the incident, told KCBS.

Officers initially found 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks at Ceja’s home, but later discovered 32,000 pounds, or 16 tons, in all, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ceja had purchased the fireworks in Pahrump, Nevada, for resale in California at inflated prices, KCBS reported.

Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.



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