LOS ANGELES — The man arrested at a home in South Los Angeles where 32,000-pounds of illegal fireworks were found and where a police bomb containment vehicle was destroyed in an explosion has been charged with transporting explosives without a license, according to court documents.
Arturo Ceja III was arrested by federal agents on Saturday.
According to a criminal complaint signed by a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Ceja paid cash for the fireworks at a store called “Area 51” in Pahrump, Nevada, last month and allegedly used a rental truck to deliver the fireworks to his home in L.A.
Ceja admitted during an interview that he bought and transported the fireworks, and allegedly told agents that he stored the fireworks under a tent in his backyard, according to the complaint.
It was not immediately clear whether Ceja has retained a lawyer.
Agents described the types of fireworks discovered during a search of Ceja’s home on June 30 as “over 500 boxes of commercial grade fireworks, both 1.3 aerial display and 1.4 hazard class fireworks in large cardboard boxes.” Police officers said they saw what they described as “homemade fireworks,” explosive-making components and clear plastic bags for money.
Members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad decided some of the homemade-style items were too dangerous to transport out of the neighborhood on trucks or even inside the department’s “Total Containment Vessel,” a truck-mounted steel and iron container designed to withstand the internal explosion of up to 15 pounds of material, according to a detective.
An entire TCV exploded Wednesday while officers were destroying the devices, causing a “massive blast radius, damaging homes in the neighborhood and injuring a total of 17 law enforcement personnel and civilians,” officials with the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The explosion destroyed the LAPD’s truck, damaged dozens of buildings and several cars and injured the 17 people.
The items being detonated included what police and agents described in the court filing as, “M-1000 and M-100 style homemade fireworks, a mortar style firework covered in aluminum foil, and a black plastic bag filled with smaller M-style fireworks.”
Some 45 special agents from the ATF’s National Response Team are in Los Angeles to investigate the fireworks discovery and the explosion that destroyed the police vehicle.
The assistant special agent in charge, Michael S. Hoffman, told reporters Friday that efforts were being made to quickly map the scene and record the scope of the damage with the hope of figuring out why the containment vessel exploded.
Ceja was initially booked on suspicion of state charges of possession of a destructive device and child endangerment and was released on bail.
Alicia Victoria Lozano contributed.