Man linked to massive fireworks blast released on bond

Wave Staff and Wire Reports

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A local man charged in connection with a massive fireworks explosion June 30 was released from federal custody July 7 on a $25,000 unsecured bond, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Arturo Ceja III, 26, is expected to be arraigned in federal court on Aug. 2 after he was charged with illegally transporting up to 32,000 pounds of explosives that he intended to sell for Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.

“Ceja did not possess an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) explosives license or permit of any kind that would authorize him to transport either aerial display fireworks or homemade fireworks made with explosive materials,” a special agent with the federal bureau wrote in the complaint affidavit.

Ceja, who also was cited for transporting flash powder, told investigators he purchased most of the homemade explosive devices from Area 51, a fireworks dealer in Pahrump, Nevada. Fireworks sales are illegal in Los Angeles.

If convicted, Ceja is facing a federal prison sentence of up to 10 years. 

Ceja has been arrested twice at his home on East 27th Street in connection with the case. He was first arrested June 30 after the Los Angeles Police Department, acting on a tip, discovered he was storing explosive devices in his backyard. Ceja was charged with suspicion of possession of a destructive device and child endangerment. 

As officers attempted to haul away the devices in a containment vehicle, the devices exploded, destroying the vehicle and injuring 17 people, including police officers on the scene. Nearby houses and property were damaged.

Ceja was released the next day after posting a $500,000 bond. ATF officials returned to Ceja house July 3 to arrest him again after authorities believed he had committed federal violations.

The federal complaint alleges that “fireworks were stored outside and in an unsafe manner, namely under unsecured tents and next to cooking grills.” The complaint also indicated that “the commercial fireworks or homemade fireworks, which contained explosive materials, were not stored in an approved method.”

State charges have not been filed against Ceja, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Damage from the blast prompted the South Central Neighborhood Council to approve a motion July 5 calling for the L.A. City Council to create a policy banning explosions that are intentionally detonated in residential communities.

The council also called for the LAPD officer responsible for the decision to detonate explosives in the neighborhood to face criminal charges and internal discipline.

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