January 3, 2012
They erupted almost simultaneously, a sudden barrage of fires about 1:30 a.m. that signaled the fourth night of an arsonist’s rampage. In 90 minutes, nearly a dozen vehicles had gone up in flames on both sides of the Hollywood Hills.
But this time, early Monday, police finally had an edge.
Hours before the fires began, federal officials alerted authorities that a Los Angeles man might be the suspect they were looking for, according to law enforcement sources.
The man had recently made a scene at a Los Angeles Immigration Court hearing, the sources said. An official involved in the case recognized him when police Sunday night released images of a “person of interest” seen on a surveillance tape after a car fire at the Hollywood & Highland shopping center.
Patrol officers were told he would be driving a blue Dodge minivan.
Police swarmed the area and set up a roadblock on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
At 3 a.m., a reserve sheriff’s deputy spotted the minivan in West Hollywood and pulled it over near the Sunset Strip. The driver appeared to match the grainy video and inside his minivan, officials found fire starter sticks, police said. He was taken into custody, and the outbreak of fires came to a sudden halt.
“I feel very good that we’ve got the right guy,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said in an interview. “He had the right stuff in his van and I am confident in the arrest.”
At a news conference Monday evening, Beck emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and that it could take some time to present the case to prosecutors. “We are confident in our investigation, but we have a long way to go,” he said.
The man police arrested remains something of a mystery. Law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, first said the suspect was a 55-year-old named Harry Burkhart.
Police later said Burkhart was actually a 24-year-old German national who carried travel papers from Chechnya. He had spent time in Germany, they said, but had lived in Southern California for the last several years. They weren’t clear on his alleged motives but speculated that he might have been furious over his mother’s pending deportation.
A senior LAPD official said the suspect had attended a recent immigration hearing regarding his mother’s case and erupted in a tirade, spewing angry anti-American statements.
It was this incident that eventually led police to Burkhart. Several sources said the tip came from an official at the State Department. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday also thanked the U.S. Marshals Office for helping identify Burkhart.
L.A. detectives were also investigating reports that either Burkart or a family member was connected to an arson case in Germany, said the senior LAPD official.
TV footage showed Burkhart after his arrest, dressed in black and wearing his hair in a ponytail. He is seen grinning in an expression one witness described as “creepy.”
Investigators are trying to determine if other people were involved in the arson rampage that had parts of the city on edge for four days.
Since Friday morning, at least 50 fires were set, mostly in the Hollywood area, but also on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Many of the blazes were in carports and driveways, and spread to apartment buildings and homes.
Officials say the fires caused at least $3 million in damage to vehicles and structures, and the city spent considerable money shifting officers into the area to capture the arsonist.
Despite the hundreds of law enforcement officials on the case, the arrest was made by a reserve deputy, Shervin Lalezary. Sheriff Lee Baca said Lalezary is a Beverly Hills attorney who works as a reservist for $1 a year.
Over the holiday weekend, residents were on edge, peering out windows into the dark, keeping porch and garage lights on, and fixating on sirens in the distance. Los Angeles police and firefighters concentrated efforts in areas around Hollywood and North Hollywood, and surrounding agencies were on alert. The mode of attack was clear: Throw some type of incendiary device under cars parked on streets or in carports.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
81997 23928192 70
his path of destiny = 70 = Flipping out. Wigging out.
comprehensive summary and list of predictions for 2012:
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