South LA blast: Man gets prison for transporting fireworks that led to botched LAPD detonation

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ByRob Hayes via KABC logo
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Man sentenced to prison in South LA fireworks explosion case
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A man who stockpiled illegal fireworks in his South L.A. backyard, leading to a massive explosion due to a botched LAPD detonation, has been sentenced to five months behind bars, with two years of supervised release.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A man who stockpiled illegal fireworks in his South Los Angeles backyard, leading to a massive explosion that injured 17 people and displaced families due to a botched LAPD detonation, was sentenced Wednesday to five months in federal prison.

Arturo Ceja III pleaded guilty last year in Los Angeles federal court to transporting explosives without a license. He was also ordered to serve two years under supervised release after he gets out of jail.

Ceja planned to sell the fireworks throughout the neighborhood in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday in 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He made several trips to Nevada in late June 2021 to purchase various types of explosives -- including aerial displays and large homemade fireworks containing explosive materials -- that he transported to his home in rental vans, court records show.

The fireworks were later seized and detonated in the neighborhood on June 30, 2021 by the LAPD, causing an explosion that rocked the area.

South LA fireworks blast: Explosive material exceeded capacity of containment truck, LAPD says

The LAPD bomb squad packed nearly 40 pounds of the most volatile and dangerous homemade fireworks into an armored containment vessel that was rated for only 33 pounds, according to a federal report.

The fireworks were supposed to be detonated safely at the scene because they were too unstable to move but the vessel exploded, and debris rained down on scores of residences, businesses and vehicles.

Seventeen residents and first responders were sent to hospitals, several homes, businesses and vehicles were damaged. Dozens of people were displaced and some have never returned to the neighborhood.

The cost of the explosion has been well over $6 million in taxpayer money and still growing.

It destroyed the department's containment vehicle and federal investigators found the LAPD bomb squad miscalculated how much of the explosives it detonated by nearly three-fold.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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