LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A man suspected of trafficking thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks, which indirectly lead to a botched explosion in South Los Angeles back in June that wounded 17 people, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday on federal charges.
Twenty-seven-year-old Arturo Ceja III is slated to appear in U.S. District Court in downtown L.A. on charges of illegally transporting explosives without a license.
On June 30, thanks to a tip, Los Angeles police discovered about 32,000 pounds of illegal fireworks at Ceja’s home in the area East 27th and San Pedro streets.
The illegal fireworks included about 200 M-80 style explosives.
Several pounds of the illegal fireworks – which were deemed too dangerous to travel with — were placed in a specialized LAPD armored truck designed for controlled detonations. The detonation was conducted in the same neighborhood as Ceja’s home.
However, what was supposed to be a controlled detonation instead turned into a massive explosion. Ten LAPD officers, one ATF officer and six civilians were hurt. 13 businesses, 22 residential properties and 37 vehicles were either damaged or destroyed. Many residents are still unable to return to their homes.
Last month, LAPD Chief Michel Moore revealed that bomb squad technicians likely miscalculated the weight of the explosives that were placed in the truck. Moore revealed that, prior to the detonation, the bomb squad estimated that the total net weight of explosives placed in the truck was 16.5 pounds, when in fact it was over 42 pounds.
Meanwhile, according to federal prosecutors, Ceja had planned to sell the fireworks throughout the neighborhood in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday.
A federal complaint alleges that Ceja made several trips to Nevada in late June to purchase various types of explosives — including aerial displays and large homemade fireworks containing explosive materials — that he transported to his home in rental vans.
The L.A. City Council recently unanimously approved a motion to order a report from the department on the “failed operation” and how the public will be better protected in the future. The City Attorney’s Office was also instructed to ensure that people are properly compensated for property damage and injuries. The office has received 145 claims for money for damages, and 62 were still being processed as of July 28.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)