Alfredo Gama wants answers and reparations. (306279)
Alfredo Gama wants answers and reparations. Credit: Alfredo Gama

South Los Angeles neighborhood leaders are demanding answers and accountability after an illegal fireworks explosion detonated inside an LAPD Bomb Squad disposal truck, rocked a residential neighborhood near 27th Street and San Pedro Street in Los Angeles on June 30.

Officials said the massive explosion that destroyed a specially designed LAPD vehicle that was supposed to contain the blast, injured 17 people, destroyed vehicles and severely damaged homes. Damage was discovered at least a half-block from the blast.

“We need answers but more than answers, we need reparations,” began Alfredo Gama, president, Central Alameda Neighborhood Council.

Preliminary information released by investigators said the incident happened after LAPD seized 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks. Community leaders said making residents whole is the number one priority.

“Reparations means that they have to repair all the damage to property, people, souls and spirits. They caused (a lot of damage) on the people and the soul of South Central,” Gama continued.

Gama was joined by several community leaders, including the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police. The group said there was no justification for the explosion in a working-class community. They want whoever is responsible to face criminal charges.

Ultimately, community leaders also want the City of Los Angeles to pay for what happened and believe that 20 percent should be cut from LAPD’s budget.

“The City of Los Angeles has an $11 billion dollar budget. What happened on Wednesday, June 30 was the Los Angeles Police Department’s damage, it hurt a lot of people,” Gama said.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for LAPD “to conduct a full investigation into this incident, so we can better understand why this happened.”

Meanwhile, Arturo Ceja III was arrested by special federal agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and will face charges for transporting explosives without a license. Investigators said Ceja was planning to sell the fireworks through the neighborhood in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday. In total, ATF said they found 32,000 pounds of fireworks in Ceja’s backyard.

“What happened (Wednesday, June 30) was terrorism on this community,” said Robert Sanchez, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “This never should have happened. However, like this crime and all other crimes, it is over-policing in our community.”

Officials have opened an assistance center at Trinity Recreation Center at 2415 Trinity Street in Los Angeles for residents that have been impacted by the explosion. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout this week. For information, call (213) 484-4835.