Man Arrested After 5 Bodies Found in Burned Building

Man Arrested After 5 Bodies Found in Burned Building
File photo by Tristan Ferne/Flickr

UPDATE at 2:23 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, 2016: A suspect has been charged with capital murder. Details are at the bottom. First posted at 4:16 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, 2016.

A man is under arrest after five bodies were found in a vacant Westlake District building that was destroyed in a fire last night.

The man, detained as a person of interest, was booked, possibly on a murder allegation, a Los Angeles Police Department official told L.A. Weekly this afternoon.

Details of the arrest would be revealed during a 5 p.m. press conference at the site of the fire, a two-story structure that appeared to have been used as a Korean-American medical building, the official said.

The blaze was reported at 7:01 p.m. yesterday. It quickly put responding firefighters in a defensive stance, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said in a statement.

It took 145 firefighters two hours and 22 minutes to declare the blaze finished, but even then TV crews captured flare-ups on-camera.

Three people were rescued from second-story windows, Sanders said. One was held as a "person of interest," the LAFD stated initially. That person was hospitalized and then, according to police, arrested.

A man's body was found immediately following the blaze.

Four others, two men and two women, were found today by authorities using cadaver dogs at the site, Sanders said. All appeared to have been homeless, officials said.

UPDATE at 12:34 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, 2016: Police identified the suspect as 21-year-old Johnny Sanchez. 

A Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman indicated that formal allegations were pending today. Arraignment was expected this afternoon.

"It was a dispute between Sanchez and other individuals that were residing in the building that was the cause of him ultimately lighting the fire,'' Los Angeles police Lt. William Hayes told reporters.

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said at a news conference that the four bodies found yesterday were together under debris on the second floor.

According to L.A. County Sheriff's inmate records Sanchez was booked Monday in lieu of $2 million bail.

UPDATE at 2:23 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, 2016: The D.A.'s office announced that Sanchez has been charged with capital murder, which would make him eligible for the death penalty if he's successfully convicted.

"Sanchez allegedly set a fire after getting into a dispute with other transients at the site, killing Jerry Dean Clemons, 59, and Mary Ann Davis, 44," the office said in a statement. "Authorities have yet to identify two males and one female victim."

He faces a murder case with special circumstances that include allegations of multiple murders, arson murder and attempted, premeditated murder, prosecutors said.


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