L.A. to pay $21M to settle claims over botched fireworks detonation by police 3 years ago

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles will pay more than $21 million to settle claims by residents of a neighborhood where police bungled the detonation of a cache of illegal fireworks three years ago, injuring 17 people and displacing dozens of others.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the payments, and the settlements will now go to Mayor Karen Bass for approval, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Councilmember Curren Price, who represents the South Los Angeles district where the blast occurred, said he regrets the “agonizingly slow” process of reaching a deal.

“The victims of the 27th Street fireworks explosion have endured unimaginable pain and trauma that will last a lifetime,” Price said in a statement. “Reaching these financial settlements were a crucial step toward their healing, rebuilding their lives, and finding stability and peace.”

The settlement awards range from $100,000 to $2.8 million for the 17 claimants, according to the Times.

Police found an estimated 32,000 pounds of illegal commercial and homemade fireworks and other explosive materials at a home on East 27th Street on June 30, 2021.

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 homes, businesses and vehicles.

The explosion injured 10 law enforcement officers and seven residents, and damaged 22 homes, 13 businesses and 37 cars and trucks. About 80 people were displaced.

Damage exceeded $1 million and the city has spent millions more on repairs, housing and other relief for residents of the working-class neighborhood.

Federal investigators said that bomb squad technicians underestimated the weight of the explosive material because they gauged it by sight instead of using a scale, and also ignored the warnings of a team member who said the explosive material should be broken into smaller loads.

Arturo Ceja III, 27, who lived at the home where the fireworks were found, was sentenced to five months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of transporting explosives without a license.

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