With the Fourth of July on Tuesday, the United States of America is in prime fireworks season as dozens if not hundreds of displays of pyrotechnics are planned to ring in the holiday marking the nation’s independence.
But a tweet from one of the country’s most notoriously brutal police departments urging caution and safety with fireworks may ring hollow for some, especially considering the source.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) took to Twitter this weekend to remind the city’s residents that possessing fireworks is against the law. Specifically, the LAPD cited the safety of “neighbors” as a reason it encouraged Los Angeles residents to “opt for safe, organized displays.”
“Remember that all fireworks in L.A are illegal for a reason,” the LAPD tweeted Saturday. ” Spare a thought for the children in our community – their sleep disrupted, their sense of security shattered by sudden bangs and flashes. This July 4th, let’s respect our neighbors and opt for safe, organized displays.”
Perhaps the LAPD was referencing itself with that warning, too, since it wasn’t all that long ago when some of its officers caused an explosion from fireworks that was blamed for at least two deaths, including an elderly Black man, displacing residents and damaging area homes and businesses.
Back in the summer of 2021, members of LAPD’s bomb squad attempted to detonate a cache of illegal fireworks in a working-class residential community of color but miscalculated the overall weight of the explosives. With more than 40 pounds of explosives, the weight exceeded nearly twice the capacity of the containment truck, leading to massive damage.
Auzie Houchins and Ramon Reyes died afterward and though their deaths were not in the blast, their families and community accounts suggested the explosion’s aftermath combined with being displaced from their homes exacerbated both men’s health conditions and led to their deaths.
Houchins, who is Black, had diabetes, and a heart attack was listed among the causes of death. His stepdaughter suggested that the blast and its aftermath strained his health, including being removed from his childhood home and put up in a hotel room that didn’t have a kitchen. Reyes was injured during the blast when his roof collapsed on him.
“I can’t say that the blast contributed to his death,” Marie Staples told KTLA. “But I can certainly say that since he was uprooted from the blast and then went over there, he just was not the same. He was born in that house.”
Staples’ mother Lorna Hairston had been with Houchins for 20 years. She was also displaced by the explosion.
Officers attempted to evacuate the community before the explosion but missed people who did not answer their doors. The LAPD also never communicated with the local city council office to notify them of the proposed detonation.
Earlier this year, those same displaced residents were facing eviction from the city-owned hotel where they’d been staying, thanks in no small part to the City Council — yes, the same group whose leadership came under fire for racist, anti-Black comments revealed on a secret audio recording.
City Councilman Curren Price suggested that families displaced were “kind of gaming the system a little bit” instead of looking to find permanent housing.
“They’ve had it good living in the hotel rent-free for several months,” Price added. “They want that to last as long as it can.”
Previously, Price was a bit more sympathetic when he decried the “reprehensible and unconscionable” treatment of the victim of the LAPD’s explosion, saying in part that “it should have never happened in the first place.”
At its height, 89 people displaced by the explosion were living in the Level Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
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