Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dozens detained in raid on vacant building in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 60 adults and at least four juveniles were detained during a raid Wednesday at a vacant building without electricity in Hollywood where some people had been squatting, Los Angeles police said.

A search warrant was served before dawn on Hollywood Boulevard and officers went through the building, room by room, over several hours. Two firearms — a shotgun and a rifle— and drugs were seized, officials said.

Jasmine Acosta, 25, told the Los Angeles Times that the space had recently turned into an artists' community and many people had been living at the four-story building.

Acosta said she had been staying there "on and off" for several months, and some of the residents had been trying to put up lights and repaint walls.

Squatters took it over after the most recent tenant, a comedy theater, left earlier this year.

"It's just like a safe home that we made on the boulevard," Acosta said.

Cities across California have been cracking down on illegally converted spaces following the death of 36 people in a fire during an unlicensed concert at a dilapidated Oakland warehouse known as the "Ghost Ship." Two men are facing involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with that blaze.

Most of the people detained in Hollywood were released after being cited for trespassing. Those who had warrants for their arrest remained in custody, said Detective Meghan Aguilar.

The building does not have electric service, but Aguilar said residents had pulled wires in from outside, creating potentially unsafe conditions.

The stench of human waste was overwhelming, and trash was piled on floors, according to police. Air mattresses, blankets and pillows were scattered throughout. Some rooms had microwaves and coffee makers.

Some residents told the Times that they paid rent — roughly $400 a month — for upstairs rooms. Aguilar said detectives have not confirmed whether people were giving money to a landlord or someone who had designated themselves — legally or not — as a property manager.

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