L.A. arson suspect brought device to German consulate, sources say
Hours after a series of arson fires began around Los Angeles last month, Harry Burkhart walked into the German consulate on Wilshire Boulevard looking for help freeing his mother from an L.A. jail where she was being held on a German criminal warrant.
As he walked down a hallway of the building, he placed a fire-starting device on the ground. An observant security guard noticed the object, inspected it and snapped a photograph.
Burkhart picked up the object as he left.
That photo is now considered key evidence that detectives say links the 24-year-old German national to dozens of arson fires, according to law enforcement sources who described the scene at the consulate.
Since Burkhart was arrested last week, a team of detectives have been tracing his steps, going to each of the more than 50 fire scenes in search of patterns and evidence in the four-day arson spree that kept parts of L.A. on edge.
The vast majority of the fires were started by what authorities described as a common briquette easily found in stores. The briquette is normally used to start fires in a fireplace or grill.
The sources said there is a delay between the time the briquette is lit and when it burns hot enough to produce flames, allowing the suspect to leave the scene before the blazes are detected.
Capt. Jamie Moore of the Los Angeles Fire Department said the arson task force is still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses, declining to provide specific details about what the team has found.
Burkhart has been charged in connection with 13 of the 51 fires, apparently motivated by his hatred of America after federal official jailed his mother.
Prosecutors said they intend to file additional charges, and Moore said the investigators are continuing to “build a case against Mr. Burkhart.”
-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein