Suspect arrested in Los Angeles arson rampage case

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In the Los Angeles, US arson spree, where more than 50 attacks occurred in four days, local police arrested a German national Monday. The suspect, reportedly 24-year-old Harry Burkhart, was stopped in the vicinity of West Hollywood due to the appearance of his van, matching a description law enforcement authorities issued earlier.

The city saw numerous arson attacks start on December 30, with 17 vehicles and structures set alight. Many of the incidents took place in driveways and carports. In one case, a former home of The Doors late lead singer Jim Morrison was damaged. Despite increased attention by the police force and residents, eleven of the fires occurred in under two hours up until 2:50am (local time) on Monday.

Law enforcement revealed that, only hours before these fires, the State Department alerted the Los Angeles police (LAPD) about Harry Burkhart, believed to be connected to arson attacks in Germany. Acting on that information, police were searching for a blue Dodge minivan. Just before 3am that morning, reserve sheriff deputy Shervin Lalezary — a real-estate lawyer who volunteers with the LAPD for $1 a year — spotted Burkhart's vehicle and pulled him over. He later recounted, his approach to the van was covered by other officers. A search of the car produced material that could be used for arson, according to various media reports fire sticks and charcoal briquettes.

Police said the suspect was Harry Burkhart, a German national from Frankfurt, with Chechnyan travel papers. Canadian media reports a minivan, ostensibly his, has licence plates from British Columbia and there is a traffic offence record for a Harry Burkhart in Vancouver. He had been in the US for several years, and lived in an apartment on Sunset Boulevard. In a court hearing concerning his mother's immigration problems, according to police, Burkhart had ranted against the United States.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck voiced optimism about the case: "I feel very good that we've got the right guy. He had the right stuff in his van and I am confident in the arrest." Officials held a press meeting Monday evening about the developments.


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