Police arrested a German national they suspect was responsible for the string of arson across the Los Angeles area over the weekend, who may have been upset with the government over his mother's pending deportation. Harry Burkhart, a 24-year-old, was taken into custody early Monday morning after the latest round of fires led increased the intensity of the manhunt.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the key break came after the release of a surveillance tape taken from a Hollywood shopping center near one of the fires. The grainy video showed a white man with a balding forehead and a ponytail who appeared to be walking with a slight limp. After seeing the images, a State Department official recognized the man and believed he was the same person who launched into an "angry anti-American" tirade during a recent Immigration Court hearing involving his mother, who was about to be deported. The tip included the information that Burkhart would be driving a blue Dodge minivan.
Early Monday morning, nearly a dozen more car fires erupted sending fire and police officials back on high alert for suspects. Then around 3:00 a.m. local time, a reserve sherriff's deputy — an attorney by day, who earns $1 a year for his volunteer police work — spotted the minivan in West Hollywood and recognized the driver as the man in the video. He pulled the suspect over and called for backup. A search of the van revealed fire starter sticks and Burkhart was taken in custody. No suspicious fires have been reported since his arrest.
Burkhart is a 24-year-old German national who has travel papers from Chechnya, but has lived in Southern California for several years. TV news cameras captured him smiling as police officers placed him the back of a squad car. LAPD officers searched his apartment on Sunset Boulevard on Monday evening, as the continue to search for more clues and, possibly, more suspects. Even though no new fires have broken out, some still question whether so many fires could have been set so quickly by just one person. At least 50 fires were set between Friday morning and Monday, causing nearly $3 million in damage to cars and building. Most of the fires were started using cars that were parked in carports or driveways, before spreading to the adjacent buildings.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.