Suspect, 24, arrested in LA arsons

Jan. 2, 2012 at 9:31 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Los Angeles authorities said they arrested a suspect in 53 arson fires that plagued the city in recent days, including a dozen started Monday.

Police records indicated the suspect -- Harry Burkhart, 24, of Hollywood -- was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was arrested after a county sheriff's deputy spotted him about 3 a.m. PST Monday, driving a minivan that matched the description of a vehicle arson investigators were seeking, KTLA-TV, Los Angeles, reported.

Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Monday afternoon the arson task force collected evidence from the van tying the suspect to the string of fires.

"I feel very good that we've got the right guy," Beck said. "[The suspect] had the right stuff in his van, and we are confident in the arrest."

Citing sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Times said materials found in Burkhart's van could have been used to set fires.

The Times, also citing unidentified sources, reported the suspect had lived in Germany before coming to Los Angeles. The minivan he was driving had Canadian license plates, the sources said.

It wasn't clear what the motive may have been for starting the fires, but the suspect may have been in a dispute with the federal government over the immigration status of a relative, the Times said.

The dozens of fires that started breaking out Friday across the metro area caused an estimated $2 million in damage and no new blazes had been reported since the suspect was arrested, authorities said.

Investigators said many of the fires were started in cars and some spread to carports, garages and apartment buildings.

Officials said there also were several unsuccessful attempts to start fires.

Police said they were investigating four arson cases late last week as separate from the main rash of fires, KTLA-TV said. Two arrests had been made in those cases -- Samuel Arrington, 22, of Sunland, who was charged with three of those fires, and Alejandro Pineda, 55, who was charged in the fourth.

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