South Central residents are still dealing with the consequences of the Los Angeles Police Department’s decision to detonate illegal fireworks in their residential neighborhood. Although people have been able to return to their homes after being temporarily displaced, remnants of the issue still ring loud.
The impact not only imploded the entire LAPD containment truck, it shattered the windows of several homes and sent debris flying into cars parked nearby. As ashes filled the air, so did an intense odor of gas.
“I honestly feel like LAPD as an organization must be re-evaluated. It makes no sense to me who would think this was a good idea,” Devon Williams said.
Williams is a local activist and community organizer. He is also involved in the South Central Neighborhood Council and a current student at the University of Southern California.
“I would like to see all folks who own property, life, pets or anything damaged to be compensated with funds. A big mistake was made which could have escalated into something worse,” Williams continued.
The approximately 32,0000 pounds of illegal fireworks that were detonated had been recovered from the home of 27-year-old Arturo Cejas III, who was taken into custody after neighbors tipped police to “suspicious” activity. Cejas has since been charged with transporting explosive devices without license as well as child endangerment charges, due to his 10-year-old brother being at the residence during the time of his arrest.
Local organizations around the 27th and San Pedro street community, as well as the local Neighborhood Council, continue to demand accountability from city officials and LAPD on behalf of residents.
They have held press conferences and are working with local law firms to provide resources directly to impacted residents.
“When people were first reaching out for support, the city was not returning their calls and sometimes it wears people out. We reached out to a local clinic that has therapy staff because people were not made aware of what was happening and just heard a loud boom,” Adriana Cabrera said.
Cabrera is a community organizer who recently placed her bid to run in Los Angeles City Council District 9, where the explosion happened.
One of the barriers is that the area’s undocumented residents fear retaliation from police if they ask for compensation from the blast.
Cabrera said that some residents received $2000 gift cards, which has only furthered their apprehension of demanding accountability from city leaders.
Community members like Cabrera who created a mutual aid fund for South Central residents during the coronavirus pandemic, have donated her time to help translate the claim site for residents. The site is in English, which is a huge barrier for some residents who only speak spanish.
The blast not only damaged property, it has also taken an emotional and mental toll due to how loud the blast was. Cabrera said that support for hearing has also been requested by residents and that it triggered PTSD for some older residents in the community.
Caberea canvassed the community after the blast, which she said reached several blocks and some of that damage is not counted for in LAPD’s statistics, which concerns her.
As L.A County prepared to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, a healing circle was requested by residents who were impacted. Some shared how the unexpected blast triggered bad memories from war in their home countries. Some pointed to the fact that just as they were getting through the pandemic lockdowns, they were further displaced and impacted by things out of their control.
“There is also business loss. We visited a family who has a business on the corner where it happened and they have been closed up since,” Cabrera illustrated.
A legal clinic was held today at the 28th street YMCA, which has been set up as a resource center providing residents with help such as filing a claim for damages.
Cynthia Santiago, who is a immigrant rights lawyer in L.A also working with the Alderman Firm, helped curate today’s legal and wellness clinic.
“Families lost their cars, they were living in motels and they were injured. As an attorney, the whole focus of my work is to be able to step in when people need legal resources,” Santiago said.
Santiago says that for her, getting involved was also motivated by the vague answers city leaders were giving at community forums.
“Many expressed to me that they left the Trinity Park forum upset that they were not given any clear answers to what was going to happen to them. So we linked up with community organizers and said let’s do our own workshops,” Santiago expressed.
LAPD Chief Michael Moore has now stated that police miscalculated the amount of fireworks that were detonated and they overloaded the explosive truck.
A gofundme account was set up to help those impacted with more immediate needs. The Link can be accessed at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/lapd-fireworks-accident-displaced-families