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Reports: L.A. Arson Suspect Went On Tirade At Recent Immigration Hearing

An apartment complex that was burned in a spree of arson fires lies in ruins on Monday in Los Angeles.
David McNew
Getty Images
An apartment complex that was burned in a spree of arson fires lies in ruins on Monday in Los Angeles.

The man police called "the most dangerous arsonist in Los Angeles County," may have been angered by the immigration hearing of a family member. The Los Angeles Timesreports that Harry Burkhart, a 24-year-old from Germany who was arrested and charged in connection to a string of arson fires in Los Angeles, went on an anti-American tirade recently.

The Times reports:

"A senior LAPD official said the suspect had attended a recent immigration hearing regarding his mother's case and erupted in a tirade, spewing angry anti-American statements.

"It was this incident that eventually led police to Burkhart. Several sources said the tip came from an official at the State Department. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday also thanked the U.S. Marshals Office for helping identify Burkhart.

"L.A. detectives were also investigating reports that either Burkart or a family member was connected to an arson case in Germany, said the senior LAPD official."

For a bit of background, Los Angeles was on alert over the holiday weekend after an arsonist set off 55 fires in the course of four days. The fires were started in cars and they spread to carports and apartments.

NPR member station KPCC reports that Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said he was "confident" Burkhart was their man.

"[The arson suspect] had the right stuff in his van, and we are very confident we found our man," Beck said at a news conference.

Burkhart was arrested by a reserve deputy, who had just finished his shift. According to the Daily Beast, "as Burkhart was stepping out of [his] van, he told officers: 'I hate America.'"

CBS News reports that while the arrest brought relief to Los Angeles, police said they could not rule out that others were involved. Burkhart, reports CBS, is being held without bail.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.