Los Angeles: Police Detonation of Fireworks Causes 2 Deaths

Photo: Auzie Houchins, one of LAPD’s victims from their botched fireworks detonation

By David Martinez

Two men in Los Angeles died last month due to the impacts of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) reckless detonation of fireworks within a residential area of the South Central neighborhood in late June. Families of the two men say that the effects of the blast and the subsequent displacement were key factors in the men’s deaths, and both families are considering legal action against LAPD.

On June 30, the police detonated 5,000 pounds of seized fireworks in a bomb containment vehicle on 27th St. in a predominantly working-class Black and Latino neighborhood, shattering windows, sending out dangerous shrapnel, and catapulting large pieces of the destroyed containment vehicle itself into nearby houses. Dozens of people were displaced by the blast and have called for LAPD to face consequences for their criminal negligence for causing a massive explosion that injured and killed residents while damaging numerous homes and businesses.

The fireworks explosion on June 30 as seen from down the street

Ramon Reyes, one of the deceased men, was in his home as his roof caved in on him due to the blast. Both elderly men who died depended on oxygen machines and specialized hospital beds for daily life. These were not taken with them as they were evacuated by the city into alternative housing. Their families say that these disruptions and the stress from the blast contributed to their loved one’s deaths.

The other victim of LAPD’s explosion, Auzie Houchins, 72, was a retired schoolteacher who had lived in the same home all his life. Houchins’ longtime partner, Lorna Hairston, commented to local monopoly news affiliate ABC7 that Houchins “doesn’t take any kind of change and being usurped like that from the home for three weeks, just sitting there in the room with nothing to do—pretty bad.” She told the news station that she had no doubt that the aftermath of the explosion led to his death.

Hairston has started a gofundme, writing in the description, “I am permanently displaced and needing money for long term permanent housing and expenses due to the loss of my beloved companion.”

As with their racist murders of unarmed Black people, the police have sought to avoid all responsibility for the results of their criminal detonation of fireworks in a poor, working-class neighborhood. LAPD chief Michel Moore dismissed the deaths of Reyes and Houchins, attributing them to “underlying health issues.”

Of 30 households originally displaced from the blast, at least 88 residents have still not returned home at the time of publication, some living in hotels. Others have returned to homes that still have boarded-up windows, smashed gates, and other damage from the blast. The State has only made negligible efforts to address these damages, and residents reported that in the aftermath of the explosion, police told them to take up the damage with their home insurance companies.

The reactionary State gives wide latitude to the police to cause damage to civilian homes and property when conducting police activities, and those affected by the blast will face a difficult, protracted process in seeking compensation and legal consequences for LAPD for the deaths of their loved ones.

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