Nearly two years after a botched fireworks explosion by police destroyed dozens of homes in South Los Angeles, displaced residents are speaking out, accusing the city of not rectifying the issues while threatening to evict them from temporary housing.
In June 2021, LAPD officers detonated a cache of illegal fireworks on East 27th Street which injured 17 people and displaced 80 residents in the area.
An estimated 16 tons of illegal commercial and homemade fireworks and other explosive materials were found inside a home on the street, just days before July 4th celebrations.
The LAPD bomb squad packed nearly 40 pounds of the most volatile and dangerous homemade fireworks into an armored containment vessel that was rated for only 33 pounds, according to a federal report.
The fireworks were supposed to be detonated safely at the scene because they were too unstable to move but the vessel exploded, and debris rained down on nearby residences, businesses and vehicles.
Along with nearly 30 homes, the explosion also damaged 13 businesses and 37 cars and trucks. Damage exceeded $1 million and the city has spent millions more on repairs, housing and other relief for residents.
Two years after that day, residents are still angry, saying reconstruction efforts have halted and the city is refusing to complete necessary repairs.
Maria Velasquez and her family were among many who were displaced by the explosion. The conditions at their home today are still completely uninhabitable.
“You have two hard-working people who paid off a house and had the whole American dream, and then this is what happens?” said Velasquez.
June 2023 will mark two years since the Velasquez family was displaced after the LAPD’s botched detonation of confiscated fireworks.
“Today marks 644 days since the explosion,” said Ron Gochez, a community activist. “These houses look exactly the same way they did 643 days ago.”
On Wednesday afternoon, residents joined community organizers to rally against the city over what they call a lack of action to address the damage.
Repairs have yet to be done and red-tagged homes that were left unoccupied have been ransacked by burglars.
The residents said the city is now trying to evict them from their temporary housing by the end of June with no resolution in sight.
“It doesn’t help anyone to continue to see this block in the state that it is right now,” said Angelina Valencia, a spokesperson for L.A. Councilmember Curren Price, who represents the affected area.
Valencia said 15 homes have since been repaired, but progress has stalled on others. Some residents have chosen a different route rather including waiting on insurance claims or dealing with their own contractors for repairs.
“Nobody is getting evicted, nobody is getting kicked out,” said Valencia. “Our hearts are with these families.”
Some residents who have yet to move back into their homes tell KTLA they don’t have confidence in the city expeditiously finishing repairs before temporary housing evictions. City officials, however, said there are no plans for evictions at this time.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take, but they need to hurry up,” said a frustrated Valasquez.