Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

LA arson spree suspect in custody

Firefighters battle a car fire in Los Angeles, just one of a series of such arson cases in the city (AP)

A man suspected of carrying out dozens of new year arson attacks across Los Angeles, destroying parked cars and scorching buildings, is in custody.

German national Harry Burkhart, 24, was held in Los Angeles on suspicion of arson of an inhabited dwelling. Authorities say they do not know how long he has been in the United States.

Burkhart, who told police he was from Frankfurt, was arrested on Monday because he resembled a "person of interest" to the investigation who had been 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, neighbouring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, causing about £2 million in damage. Firefighters have not responded to any suspicious fires since Burkhart was detained.

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 recognised Burkhart from the video.

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

One of Saturday's fires occurred at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a popular tourist destination bordered by the Walk of Fame in an area that includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Damaged buildings included a former home of the late Doors singer Jim Morrison in Laurel Canyon.

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