South L.A. families voice frustration over deaths, lack of support that followed LAPD’s botched detonation of illegal fireworks

Local news

Community members gathered Monday in a South Los Angeles neighborhood to voice their frustrations about how they have been left to pick up the pieces, and to question the connection to subsequent deaths, after a botched detonation of homemade fireworks by the Los Angeles Police Department resulted in a disastrous explosion.

The terrifying explosion, which was supposed to be a safe detonation, happened in the 700 block of East 27th Street on June 30 around 7:30 p.m. after LAPD confiscated some 5,000 pounds of fireworks from a residence.

The blast left 17 people injured, several cars damaged and more than 30 homes destroyed, leaving many residents without a permanent home.

At a press conference Monday organized by Unidos del Barrio, resident Alejandra Munoz said her windows are still boarded up and some of her neighbors still don’t have a place to live.

“Since then we haven’t really been able to sleep. I have a lot of headaches and nerve problems and I get dizzy a lot,” Nunez, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, said. “I am asking for justice, especially for the people who were left without housing.”

Furthermore, two neighborhood residents that lived close to the explosion site have since passed away, and family members say they wonder if the explosion contributed to their deaths.

Retired school teacher Auzie Houchins died on July 22, less than a month after the explosion. Marie Staples, who spoke at the news conference, said Houchins was her mother’s longtime partner and that he was confined to a hospital bed.

The elderly couple had to relocate to a motel after the explosion damaged their home of more than 20 years, and Houchins died a short time later.

Staples said that although she is not certain if the explosion contributed to Houchins’ death, it did indeed impact his overall well-being.

“I can’t say that the blast contributed to his death, but I can certainly say that since he was uprooted from the blast and then went over there, he just was not the same. He was born in that house,” Staples said tearfully.

A second person who lived on 27th Street, across the street from the site of the explosion, has also since passed away, according to Ron Gochez of Unidos del Barrio.

Gochez told KTLA the ceiling of the man’s house fell on the man and he passed away a coupe of weeks later.

 “His family also believes that the death was at least in part due to the explosion,” Gochez said. 

The Los Angeles Police Department said they are aware of the community’s allegations, but on Monday told KTLA they had no comment.

The explosion remains under investigation, but preliminary findings said an “apparent miscalculation” of the weight of fireworks detonated by police is suspected in the explosion.

City Councilman Curren Price, who represents the neighborhood, announced a $1 million emergency fund last month for direct assistance to those residents impacted by the explosion. The money will pay for long-term housing for 25 displaced households, repairs for homes and to fund 25 identified households with $10,000 dollar grants.

Price says those families living in temporary housing paid for by the city can stay until their homes are repaired or other arrangement have been made with the city. 

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