Suspects charged over LA arson spree

2012-01-03 07:24

Los Angeles – Two men have been charged over a spree of more than 50 arson attacks which kept Hollywood on edge over the New Year holiday.

A new suspect, named as 55-year-old Alejandro Pineta, was arrested yesterday, following the detention of a 22-year-old, identified as Samuel Arrington, shortly after the attacks started last week.

The two men were both charged with arson and held in custody, Pineta in lieu of $50 000 (about R400 000) bail and Arrington in lieu of $75 000, said Los Angeles Police Department commander Michael Moriarty.

The 53 deliberately-set fires in Hollywood and surrounding parts of Los Angeles caused more than $2 million in damage, added an LA Fire Department spokesperson, Jaime Moore.

Police department chief Charlie Beck, speaking before Pineta was named as a second person charged, said: “I feel very good that we’ve got the right guy. The suspect had the right stuff in his van, and we are very confident we found our man.”

The announcements came after 16 new fires during a roughly two-hour period in the early hours yesterday, following nearly 40 over the previous three nights.

“To date, these fires have caused well in excess of $2 million in damage to vehicles and to structures,” Moore said, adding: “Fortunately there has been no loss of life.”

Federal investigators have been called in to help the probe of the string of arson attacks, one of the worst crime sprees in the city since the 1992 race riots.

Police yesterday asked residents to leave their porch and car port lights on overnight, after some 40 fires were set over three nights including New Year’s Eve.

A suspect caught on camera after a blaze in a parking lot near Hollywood’s main tourist area was believed to be in his late 20s to early 30s, with a receding hairline and dark hair worn in a ponytail, police said.

Amateur video caught the blaze in the basement of the Hollywood and Highland centre, near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where tourists flock to see celebrity handprints and the Walk of Fame stars.

Most of the arson attacks have targeted cars either outside homes on in car ports under buildings, which then caught alight.

No serious injuries have so far been reported, although one firefighter was injured.

Damaged property included a Hollywood Hills home where singer Jim Morrison of The Doors – whose hits include Light My Fire – once lived, and where he wrote the legendary band’s Love Street.

City and county officials, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, posted a reward of $60 000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

The police department scheduled another press conference for later this afternoon to give more information on the arson spree, and those arrested.

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