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LAPD bomb squad failed to heed warnings in blast


Members of an LAPD bomb squad who detonated a cache of illegal fireworks in South Los Angeles last year, causing an explosion that displaced several residents from their homes, ignored the warnings of an expert team member who said the cache should be broken into smaller portions, according to a report set to be discussed by the city’s police commission.

The expert told the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -–which investigated the blast and concurred the cache exceeded safety limits — that the volume and weight of fireworks being placed into the department’s “total containment vessel’’ (TCV) was too powerful for the vessel to control.

“Based on my experience and everything, I said, ‘Uh, this is too much to do one shot, we’re gonna break them up, right?’’’ the technician reported saying to a colleague.

The expert, later identified as “Bomb Technician C,” said his warnings were dismissed by both his colleagues and his supervisor.

“They basically told me that they had already done the calculations, that they were well under the net explosive weight that the TCV could handle,’’ he told investigators, according to a report cited by Inspector General Mark Smith.

“As we approach the eight-month mark of the explosion that rocked 27th Street, the gaping wound of negligence has reared its ugly head once again leaving us dumbfounded that this was handled so poorly in our South Los Angeles community,” said Councilman Curren Price (Ninth District). “Since day one, I have asked for accountability and continue to insist that the individuals responsible for this disaster face appropriate disciplinary action. The latest development clearly establishes that what occurred was preventable and is highly inexcusable. I expect LAPD to follow through with policy changes so that this catastrophe never happens again anywhere in the city. We must learn from this epic failure. LAPD must do better.”

The report found that the standard operating procedure ordinarily followed by the LAPD Bomb Squad “does not address specific requirements for physically weightuing esplosive materials.” The report also found there was a “lack of active supervision” at the scene as well as the “failure to utilize best practices at the scene of Bomb Squad calls had become somewhat of an accepted practice.’’

The June 30 detonation on East 27th Street, near San Pedro Street, sent 17 residents and first responders to hospitals, destroyed a bomb squad truck and damaged 22 residences, 13 businesses and 37 vehicles.

The Los Angeles City Council passed legislation on Sept. 21 to identify $5 million—in part from the LAPD’s budget—to assist recovering residents.