Harry Burkhart, L.A. Arson Fires Suspect From Germany, Says 'I Hate America'
See our report about Burkhart's mother being linked to an erotic massage business here. First posted at 7:59 p.m. Monday
The man who terrorized L.A. for three nights with a series of 53 arson fires turned out to be a 24-year-old from Germany identified as Harry Burkhart, at least according to authorities.
"I hate America" were the words he reportedly uttered after he was pulled out of his car during a traffic stop at Sunset Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue shortly after 3 this morning following another outbreak of fires in nearby West Hollywood.
Burkhart was booked into jail at 1:48 p.m. and held in lieu of $250,000, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's inmate information database.
A rookie deputy on duty in the area recognized the dark Dodge/Chrysler minivan with Canadian plates the suspect was driving as one wanted in connection with the fires. He made a traffic stop and about a few dozen fellow deputies swarmed.
The man's van.
Later authorities said Burkhart resembled a man seen leaving the area of a car fire in the Hollywood+Highland subterranean garage Saturday. Security video of that suspect was released to the public. It showed a wide man in black with a ponytail.
Burkhart had his hair in a ponytail during the stop this morning and seemed to smirk as bystanders snapped shots of him.
At a 6:15 p.m. news conference Sheriff Lee Baca called the suspect "the most dangerous arsonist in Los Angeles County that I can recall.''
At an earlier conference Capt. Jamie Moore said he expected that arson charges would formally be filed against the man.
Two fires had broken out in West Hollywood in the wee hours Monday, not far from where Burkhart was stopped (reportedly with charcoal briquettes in his car).
The aftermath of an early Monday fire at 529 Alfred St. in West Hollywood.
LAPD radio traffic indicated a suspect might have started in the Valley, igniting telltale vehicle-in-carport fires in Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood, before heading south, leaving a swath of smoldering destruction in his path.
In all there were 11 arson fires connected to the spree early this morning, including the two in West Hollywood, two in Hollywood and seven in the San Fernando Valley.
The L.A. Arson Watch Task Force also assigned these blazes to the suspect:
During the early morning hours of Friday, December 30, 2011, a series of 17 car/structure fires developed; five in West Hollywood and 12 in Hollywood. Following this series of fires a Joint Arson Task Force comprised of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the County of Los Angeles Fire Department, the District Attorney's Office, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was assembled.
In the early evening hours of Friday, December 30, 2011, and through the early morning hours of Saturday, December 31, 2011, 16 additional vehicle/structure fires occurred; four in Hollywood, 11 in North Hollywood, and one in Sunland. An additional car fire occurred in the City of Burbank.
On Saturday evening, December 31, 2011, 8 additional car/structure fires occurred; 6 in Hollywood and two in West Hollywood.
Strangely, the spree of fires in Hollywood actually started Thursday, when about four blazes broke out and two suspects were arrested. So far, that leg of our four-night fire nightmare, and those suspects, have not been connected to Burkhart's alleged rampage.
And the blazes continued Friday through this morning, resulting in about $2 million damage and no civilian injuries, officials said.
The Los Angeles Times reported today that Burkhart might have been angered over the deportation of a relative, subsequently said to be his mother, only a week ago.
[Update at 10:15 p.m.]: The Los Angeles Times reports that it appears a U.S. State Department source pointed to Burkhart after he unleashed an anti-American tirade in U.S. immigration court recently, apparently in reaction to his mother's reported deportation: A government official recognized him as resembling the man in the Hollywood+Highland surveillance video and alerted local authorities.
A be-on-the-lookout alert for Burkhart's Dodge minivan was issued, and a reserve deputy ID'd by KCAL9/CBS2 news as Shervin Lalezary spotted a suspect early this morning.
The Times reported Burkhart had "travel papers" from Chechnya even though he's a German national.
KCAL9/CBS2's Serene Branson found out from neighbors living adjacent to Burkhart's apartment at 7274 Sunset Boulevard indicated his mother lived with him until recently.
[Added]: One woman told the station that the mother had indicated to hear that her son wasn't all right in the head.
Outside the suspect's apartment tonight.
That location is centered between many of the Hollywood and West Hollywood fires, was within walking distance of Hollywood+Highland, and is even doors away from a blaze on Pointsettia Place, as KCAL9/CBS2 noted.
View Larger Map
Lalezary, by the way, was described as a reserve deputy with 3-and-half years under his belt and a fulltime job as ... an attorney.
We think Lalezary is the deputy on the left. His brother is also said to be a sheriff's reservist.
@NewsJuan / Juan Fernandez of CBS2/KCAL9
[Added]: The damage estimate for the spree that lasted from Friday to Monday was increased from $2 million to $3 million, according to City News Service.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.