A California man now faces federal charges in connection with 16 tons of fireworks on his property.
An attempt Wednesday to dispose of some of the confiscated fireworks led to an explosion that destroyed an LAPD explosive containment vehicle, left 17 injured, and caused damage through the neighborhood where the blast took place.
Arturo Ceja III, 27, of South Los Angeles was arrested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a charge of transporting explosives without a license, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Ceja was initially arrested last week by Los Angeles police after they found 5,000 pounds of fireworks in his home. However, according to the Department of Justice, further investigation found 32,000 pounds of fireworks.
The Justice Department 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 residence in rental vans.”
#BREAKINGNEWS: New video shows the moment a large cache of illegal #fireworks detonates inside an #LAPD bomb squad rig in #SouthLA. The massive explosion injuring at least 9 people. Live coverage – Tonight at 11 from ABC7. https://t.co/cUgEI7ENs4 pic.twitter.com/0T2dXKLCfB
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) July 1, 2021
Possession of fireworks by individuals is illegal in California, which means that they can fetch higher prices for those who sell them illegally.
Ceja claimed that he bought the devices from a person selling them out of a car in the parking lot of Area 51, a fireworks dealer in Nevada, according to the release.
“Ceja did not possess an ATF explosives license or permit of any kind that would authorize him to transport either aerial display fireworks or homemade fireworks made with explosive materials, including but not limited to flash powder,” the complaint against him reads, according to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department said the fireworks were stored unsafely.
“[T]he fireworks were stored outside and in an unsafe manner, namely under unsecured tents and next to cooking grills,” the complaint said, according to the release. “None of the commercial fireworks or homemade fireworks, which contained explosive materials, were stored in an approved magazine.”
The Justice Department said that agents found 140 other homemade fireworks and pieces to make explosive devices.
When the LAPD first arrested Ceja, it wanted to destroy fireworks it thought were too unstable to transport and brought a containment vessel to the scene.
— Ryder Christ (@RyderChristNews) July 1, 2021
The attempt to destroy the fireworks led the vessel and truck to explode, injuring nine members of law enforcement and eight civilians.
“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,” neighbor Miguel Avila said, according to KCAL-TV.
The extent of the explosion was that the 500-pound lid to the containment vessel was found several blocks from where the blast took place, said Michael Hoffman, an assistant special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to KTLA-TV.
Aftermath of LAPD fireworks explosion pic.twitter.com/MGAxhc09pI
— Tony Montana (@sisterjase) July 3, 2021
“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don’t know why,” Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said concerning the explosion, according to Fox News. “We intend to find out why.”
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