LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Los Angeles police official confirmed Thursday morning that some residents were not evacuated prior to the preplanned detonation of illegal fireworks which turned into a massive explosion Wednesday night in a South L.A. neighborhood, injuring 17 people.
Speaking to CBS2, LAPD. Lt. Raul Jovel said that officers went door-to-door evacuating the area prior to what was supposed to be a controlled detonation.
However, after the explosion, officers learned that some residents who had not answered their doors were hurt in the ensuing explosion.
“Officers went door-to-door,” Jovel said. “After the explosion, they discovered that some folks were still in the vicinity that did not answer the door. And that’s how we discovered that some folks were injured.”
Jovel said that a decision appears to have been made for the officers not to enter the homes to ensure they were empty.
“There’s certain limits as to us going into homes in different situations,” Jovel said. “In that situation, whoever was in charge felt that it was safe to detonate it. They followed the procedures in place.”
The explosion occurred at around 7:40 p.m. Wednesday evening at East 27th and San Pedro streets.
Ten LAPD officers, six civilians and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officer were hurt. The injuries were described as mild to moderate in nature. Sixteen of the 17 were hospitalized, 11 men and five women, all ranging in age between 42 and 85, according to LAFD.
Earlier in the day, the LAPD seized over 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks from a nearby home and arrested a 27-year-old man. Among the fireworks was what LAPD Chief Michel Moore described as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Ten pounds of the IEDs were then placed in a specialized armored truck designed for controlled detonations. Because of fear that traveling with the IEDs would be dangerous, a decision was made to conduct the detonation in the same neighborhood as the home where the fireworks were found.
“When the techs find a substance that’s really volatile, and very dangerous, they try to detonate in place because its just too dangerous to transport on a normal vehicle because of, obviously, (the risk of) an explosion,” Jovel said. “They made that decision to detonate it in place. There’s certain criteria on the substance and the circumstances of that.”
However, what was supposed to be a controlled detonation turned into a massive explosion which flipped cars and shattered windows across a two-block radius. Several homes also appear to have been damaged. Twelve homes are expected to remain under evacuation through the weekend.
The Martinez family is among those staying at a long-term Red Cross shelter established at Trinity Recreation Center. Jovana Martinez and her brother Jafet were pulling into the alley behind their apartment when the explosion occurred.
“All our windows are broken, from my bedroom to my brother’s room, everything was shattered,” evacuee Jovana Martinez said.
“Honestly, I don’t know what went so wrong that a whole armed vehicle that is meant to withstand bombs got destroyed into pieces,” Jafet Martinez said.
What caused the explosion is still unknown. National ATF teams were scheduled to arrive in L.A. Thursday to lead the investigation.