Monday, February 19, 2018

Man arrested in Los Angeles arson spree

LOS ANGELES — Authorities arrested a German man Monday in connection with dozens of suspected arson attacks that destroyed parked cars, scorched buildings and rattled much of the nation's second-largest city over the New Year's weekend.

Harry Burkhart, 24, was booked for investigation of arson and was being held without bail, authorities said. He is a German national, but authorities said they didn't know how long he has been in the United States. Police said he told arresting officers he's from Frankfurt.

Burkhart was arrested earlier in the day because he resembled a "person of interest" captured on surveillance video. He was stopped by a reserve sheriff's deputy in a van being sought by arson investigators, who did not rule out the possibility that others may be involved.

More than 50 blazes have flared since Friday in Hollywood, neighboring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, causing about $3 million in damage.

Police declined to reveal any motive for the fires. When asked at a news conference about reports that an immigration problem with Burhkart's mother may have been a factor, authorities declined to comment.

"We are very confident in this arrest, but we have a long way to go," said police Chief Charlie Beck, who mentioned receiving information from federal authorities who recognized Burkhart from the video.

Most of the fires began in cars, and authorities have not said how they were started.

The blazes forced many apartment dwellers from their homes. There were no serious injuries.

One of Saturday's fires occurred at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a tourist destination bordered by the Walk of Fame in a neighborhood that includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Damaged buildings included a former home of Doors singer Jim Morrison in Laurel Canyon.

The fires left residents on edge over the holiday weekend in some of the most densely populated areas of the city. Hundreds of investigators, police officers and firefighters raced to deal with the blazes. Police conducted extra patrols all weekend, and the noise of helicopters and sirens persisted virtually nonstop in Hollywood.

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