Residents on Thursday called for mental health services and the names of Los Angeles police officers involved following the release of a federal report of a massive fireworks explosion that destroyed part of a neighborhood in South LA.
More than a dozen people gathered on East 27th Street holding signs that read “Lies,” “Unrepaired,” and “Justice For Our Fellowship.”
In June, the LAPD damaged the block while attempting to safely detonate a warehouse of illegal fireworks.
Carmen Romero said her 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter are in need of psychiatric help. The explosion rocked her home and shattered her windows.
“The explosion was 77 days ago and they didn’t get the support they needed,” said Romero, whose daughter was holding a sign that read “Destroyed by the LAPD”. “We didn’t ask about this situation; it was caused by the negligence of the police. “
A report released this week by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that LAPD officials grossly misjudged the amount of fireworks they placed in a containment before detonation.
LAPD chief Michel Moore, who spoke to residents at a closed meeting on Monday, said the fireworks placed in the ship were not weighed with a scale, but instead were eyed by the technicians who worked on site.
He said several members of the bomb squad have been removed from the team and will not be returning.
The June 30 blast at 700 block on East 27th Street, just days before the July 4 holiday, injured 17 people – 10 LAPD officers, an ATF agent, and six civilians – and damaged or destroyed 13 stores, Jan. Residential buildings and 37 vehicles, the police said.
The explosion displaced dozens of people and forced them to move into city-paid hotel rooms while officials worked to clean up the mess. Many residents remain displaced, and some houses in the block are considered uninhabitable. Others continue to live in damaged houses.
Two elderly residents who were among the displaced have since died. Officials have attributed their deaths to disease and natural causes, although family members and activists said the explosion caused significant stress and clearly contributed to it.
Arturo Ceja III, a 26-year-old resident of the block, pleaded guilty in federal court last month to transporting unlicensed explosives from Nevada to California. Federal authorities said Ceja stored about 16 tons of fireworks in the back yard of his family’s home, which the LAPD discovered after receiving a tip-off.
On Thursday evening, the windows and doors of some houses along the street were boarded up. Outside, signs in English and Spanish hung on fences that read “We Demand Accountability” and “Justice for 27th Street”.
“Look at these windows and look at these houses. They are still destroyed, ”said Ron Gochez, a Unión del Barrio community organizer who helped residents. “If this were a wealthy community on the Westside, it wouldn’t be.”
Some of the families took a bus from their hotel to the city center on Thursday evening because their cars were damaged in the explosion, Gochez said.
“Do you want to come home?” He asked the residents behind him.
“Yes,” they said.
“They want to be in their neighborhood,” said Gochez.
Local residents also asked for the names of officials involved in the errors that led to the explosion.
At Monday’s meeting, Moore declined to give names, saying it was his fault. He added that an investigation into the actions of individual officers is still ongoing.
“I find it very hypocritical of the police and everyone else to block their names if they haven’t blocked the name of the person who had the fireworks,” said Maria Velasquez, who still lives in a hotel. “We need the names.”
The Times employee Kevin Rector contributed to this report.