Story at a glance

  • The Los Angeles bomb squad made “significant” miscalculations that led to them inadvertently setting off a massive explosion in June.
  • A controlled detonation went awry, injuring 17, destroying the containment vehicle, and damaging or destroying 13 businesses, 22 homes and 37 cars.
  • A preliminary report suggests the bomb technicians grossly miscalculated the weight of the explosives.

The Los Angeles bomb squad made "significant" miscalculations that led to them inadvertently setting off a massive explosion that injured 17 people on the last day of June, according to Police Chief Michel Moore.

The Los Angeles Police Department addressed media after receiving its preliminary investigation report on how a controlled detonation went awry, injuring 17, destroying the containment vehicle and damaging or destroying 13 businesses, 22 homes and 37 cars.


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The LAPD had seized thousands of pounds of fireworks on June 30 from the South Los Angeles home of Arturo Ceja, 26. Ceja had purchased the fireworks in Nevada and transported them to Los Angeles to resell them ahead of the Fourth of July. He initially faced state charges of possession of a destructive device and child endangerment and was later federally charged with transporting explosives without a license

While the police transported a large majority of the fireworks to a secondary location to conduct a controlled detonation, some of the fireworks were homemade and found leaking. Deeming them too unstable to transport, the police opted to host a controlled detonation in the neighborhood using the detonation chamber of a containment vehicle.

According to Moore, the bomb technicians estimated the weight of the remaining devices — which is allowed when trying to avoid further handling unstable devices — but grossly miscalculated the weights.

"We have miscalculations that are significant," Moore said, according to The Associated Press.


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The containment vehicle is capable of detonations of 15 pounds of explosive materials in multiple uses, or 25 pounds of explosives in a single detonation. The bomb technicians reportedly estimated the remaining explosives were about 16.5 pounds, though the investigation later determined the explosives were closer to about 42 pounds, exceeding the capacity of the detonation chamber and ultimately leading to the “catastrophic” explosion.

Five members of the bomb squad were removed from the line of duty while the investigation continues.

"We're committed to identifying how this occurred and ensuring it never happens again," Moore said.


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Published on Jul 20, 2021