Fifty-six-year-old Dawud Abdulwali pleaded not guilty today to charges that he caused one of the largest structure fires in Los Angeles history.
As many folks are still waiting to hear why the Da Vinci fire was intentionally sparked, documents show that a man with a similar name had many addresses and aliases.
Abdulwali, who apparently lived in Los Angeles, was charged with suspicion of arson of a structure and aggravated arson, according to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office.
The case against him also includes an allegation that “the blaze was started with an accelerant,” according to a DA's statement.
The Dec. 8 fire at a massive apartment complex wing that was still under construction near the 110 freeway downtown was started on the fourth floor of the Da Vinci project with accelerant, prosecutors allege.
One-third of the city's on-duty firefighters responded to the spectacular blaze, which could be seen for miles. Investigators later determined that $30 million in damage had been done to the project, which was destroyed but is now being rebuilt.
The blaze also damaged two nearby buildings, including one used by city employees.
Authorities initially circulated security video of two apparently homeless men seen near the scene of the crime that night, but those two are now considered witnesses.
Another video clip, the existence of which was revealed by a fire official in March, reportedly showed a man parking at the side of the 110 freeway and then walking toward the Da Vinci. That person has yet to be publicly tied to the case.
Little seems to be known about Abdulwali. Charging documents allege that he intended “to cause injury” when the Da Vinci erupted in flames.
Nevada court documents show that plaintiffs claimed a man with nearly the same last name (spelled Abdul-Wali, the same as the name on his Facebook page) owed them $55,400.
The petition shows several claimed mailing addresses and aliases for Abdul-Wali. Those include locations in Las Vegas, Redondo Beach, Tarzana, Glendale, Tujunga, Northridge, Rialto, Winnetka, Woodland Hills, Lakewood and Cypress, according to the document.
The aliases, according to the filing, even included women's names such as Angela Boyed and Susan Lopez. Men's aliases listed include Ron Asmit, Edward Embalsado and Richard Logan. Even a Korean-American–sounding name, John Kim, is shown.
Investigators were keeping matters of specific evidence and motive out of the spotlight in order to save their side of the story for court. In a statement, the Los Angeles Fire Department said only that “electronic and physical evidence” led to Abdulwali's arrest.
LAFD Chief Ralph M. Terrazas:
Our investigators worked tirelessly with their colleagues in law enforcement for months to apprehend the suspected arsonist in this spectacularly destructive fire.
The LAFD's Arson/Counter Terrorism Section investigated the case alongside the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Conspiracy Section.
Abdulwali was arrested Tuesday and then held in lieu of $1 million bail. Prosecutors say he faces as many as 10 years behind bars if they're successful with their case.