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In a statement shared with the public Wednesday night, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson said bomb squad officers were in the process of seizing more than 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks at the time of the incident.
“Some of the fireworks were being stored in our bomb squad trailer as a precautionary measure,” a rep said. “Unknown at this time what caused an explosion.”
In a separate statement, the Los Angeles Fire Department said they were on standby when the large explosion occurred.
The explosion happened while the collection of illegal fireworks was being destroyed by the bomb squad, per an Associated Press report. In addition to the 17 injuries, the explosion also damaged nearby vehicles and homes.
The latest update from the LAFD stated that the “final patient count” was 17, 16 of whom were transported for treatment. Among the wounded who were transported for treatment by the LAFD were civilians, including three with moderate injuries and three with minor injuries, as well as nine LAPD officers with minor injuries. An ATF agent also sustained minor injuries.
27-year-old Arturo Cejas has since been arrested on suspicion of possessing a destructive device.
While an investigation aimed at determining the exact cause of the blast may take some time, LAPD chief Michel Moore said in a press conference that the total containment vehicle should have been able to handle the task. According to Moore, improvised explosives were discovered at the scene that were too dangerous to relocate.
These explosives were described by Moore as being “homemade devices” with simple fuses. Less than 10 pounds of the explosives was put inside a chamber that’s meant to safety detonate explosives, though Moore noted that the containment vehicle was ultimately a “total, catastrophic failure” for the team.
Complex has reached out to reps for both the LAPD and LAFD for additional comment.
“I’ve directed the LAPD to conduct a full investigation into this incident, so we can better understand why this happened,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday night. “Illegal fireworks pose a great danger and can cost lives. We will prosecute those who use or possess them to the fullest extent of the law.”