I-Team: 16 tons of fireworks that caused massive Los Angeles explosion were purchased in Nevada

Local News

Man accused of driving to Pahrump for fireworks

Police officers walk past the remains of an armored Los Angeles Police Department tractor-trailer Thursday morning July 1, 2021, after illegal fireworks seized at a South Los Angeles home exploded Wednesday evening, in South Los Angeles. Authorities say it may take days to determine why a cache of homemade fireworks exploded as it was being destroyed by a bomb squad in Los Angeles, injuring 17 people. The blast Wednesday evening destroyed an armored tractor-trailer rig, damaged nearby cars and shattered windows in homes. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The fireworks that caused a massive explosion last week in Los Angeles, injuring 17 people, were purchased at a dealer in Nevada, the I-Team confirmed Monday.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Arturo Ceja III was arrested on Saturday. Ceja is accused of transporting more than 30,000 pounds of fireworks from Nevada to California without a license.

According to court documents, Ceja made several trips in a rental van to Pahrump to purchase the fireworks from Area 51, a local dealer, prosecutors said. Fireworks can be sold in California at quadruple the Nevada purchase price, they said.

Investigators said Ceja told them he bought the explosives from a person selling the items out of a trunk in the Area 51 parking lot, documents said.

“Ceja did not possess an ATF explosives license or permit of any kind that would authorize him to transport either aerial display fireworks or homemade fireworks made with explosive materials, including but not limited to flash powder,” the complaint said.

The remains of an armored Los Angeles Police Department tractor-trailer are seen after fireworks exploded Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. A cache of illegal fireworks seized at a South Los Angeles home exploded, damaging nearby homes and cars and causing injuries, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Last Wednesday, Los Angeles police officers received a tip about a large number of fireworks being stored at Ceja’s home. The ATF estimates Ceja was storing about 32,000 pounds of fireworks in his backyard. Investigators said they also found more than 140 homemade fireworks and explosive-making components in Ceja’s home.

Police determined the only safe way to remove the fireworks was to destroy them in a total containment vessel, however, on detonation, the entire vessel exploded, damaging several buildings in the neighborhood.

Local business are seen damaged after illegal fireworks seized at a South Los Angeles home exploded, in South Los Angeles Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021. A cache of homemade fireworks exploded as it was being destroyed by a bomb squad, flipping and damaging cars, smashing windows in homes and injuring a dozen of people including police officers, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Seventeen people were hurt, police said.

A charge of transporting explosives without a license carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Ceja was due in court Tuesday.

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