Arrest made in death of 5 in Westlake building fire

Leanne Suter Image
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Arrest made in death of 5 in Westlake building fire
A 21-year-old homeless man was arrested on suspicion of starting a fire that killed five people at a vacant two-story building in the Westlake district Monday night.

WESTLAKE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A 21-year-old homeless man has been booked on suspicion of murder in connection with a fire that killed five people in a vacant Westlake building Monday night, officials announced Tuesday.

The suspect, identified as Johnny Sanchez, 21, apparently had a dispute with one homeless person in the building and set the fire, officials said. He intended to kill that one person, according to police investigators, but four additional victims were later found on the second floor of the two-story building.

The additional bodies - two men and two women - were found by a team of three detection dogs and their handlers Tuesday, fire officials said. All five victims appear to be transients, fire officials said. Because of the building's instability after the blaze, the bodies were lifted out of the debris using a ladder truck.

Police say Sanchez has a criminal record involving narcotics and domestic violence. He is being held on $1 million bail.

The fire was reported around 7 p.m. in the 2400 block of West 8th Street, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said. It took 145 firefighters to battle the flames and keep them from spreading to nearby buildings. The fire was extinguished by shortly after 9 p.m.