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L.A. arsons: Suspect due in court Wednesday as probe continues

January 3, 2012 |  8:48 am

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Michael Moriarty points to an image of a man caught on video walking down Hollywood Boulevard after a car fire Saturday night inside the parking structure of the Hollywood & Highland complex.

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

The suspect in a string of arson fires in the Hollywood area is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday as detectives continue to build their case against Harry Burkhart.

Map shows locations of fires possibly linked to recent arson spree. Credit: Los Angeles TimesLos Angeles police said they have strong evidence tying Burkhart to the arson spree -- including fire-starting materials found inside his minivan during his arrest Monday.

But officials have stressed that the investigation is still ongoing. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department was moving cautiously and that it was unclear when exactly their case would be presented to prosecutors.

MAP: Southland arsons

"We are confident in our investigation, but we have a long way to go," he said.

In an interview with The Times, he added: "I feel very good that we've got the right guy. He had the right stuff in his van and I am confident in the arrest."

Police served search warrants at his Hollywood apartment on Monday evening.

PHOTOS: Southland arsons

Burkhart is a 24-year-old German national who carried travel papers from Chechnya. He had spent time in Germany, they said, but had lived in Southern California for the last several years. They weren't clear on his motives but speculated that he might have been angry about his mother's pending deportation.

A senior LAPD official said the suspect had attended a recent immigration hearing regarding his mother's case and erupted in a tirade, spewing angry anti-American statements.

It was this incident that eventually led police to Burkhart. Several sources said the tip came from an official at the State Department. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for helping identify Burkhart.

FULL COVERAGE: Southland arsons

L.A. detectives were also looking into reports that either Burkhart or a family member was connected to an arson case in Germany, the senior LAPD official said.

TV footage showed Burkhart after his arrest, dressed in black, wearing his hair in a ponytail and grinning.

Since Friday morning, at least 50 fires were set, mostly in the Hollywood area, but also on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Many of the blazes were in carports and driveways, and spread to apartment buildings and homes.

[For the Record: 9:41 a.m., Jan 3: An earlier version of this post carried a headline indicating that suspect Harry Burkhart would appear in court Tuesday. He is expected to appear before a judge Wednesday.]

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Photo: Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Michael Moriarty points to an image of a man caught on video walking down Hollywood Boulevard after a car fire Saturday night in the parking structure of the Hollywood & Highland complex. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Image: A map shows the locations of fires possibly linked to the recent arson spree. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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