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Witness tells of detention of 'person of interest' in arson case

January 2, 2012 |  5:33 am

A "person of interest" being questioned in connection with a spate of arson fires around the city was detained near a drugstore at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, according to a witness to the incident.

Map shows locations of fires possibly linked to recent arson spree. Credit: Los Angeles TimesDetails of the man's detention were not clear, but the witness told The Times he saw swarms of Los Angeles police and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department vehicles rolling into the area. He said he later saw a man dressed in black in the back of a patrol car.

PHOTOS: Arson fires

The man had been driving a minivan when he was stopped, the witness said.

Several YouTube videos show the scene soon after the arrest.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that they believe the man being held is the same one seen in a video police released Sunday in connection with the case. An image of a man termed a "person of interest" by authorities was caught on a video that showed a car fire Saturday night inside the parking structure of the Hollywood & Highland Center on Hollywood Boulevard.

MAP: Arson fires

However, in a statement, a Los Angeles fire official stressed that "it is too early to speculate if this person is responsible for the spree of arson fires."

The detention follows an early-morning frenzy of arson fires across the Hollywood area on Monday. Eleven fires were reported in two hours, beginning at 1:30 a.m., most to cars and carports in apartment complexes, police and fire officials said.

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

A total of 55 fires are under investigation.

As of 5:15 a.m., the corner of Sunset and Fairfax was blocked off, with numerous police and fire vehicles parked there. It's unclear whether there had been a fire nearby.


FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

Police examine immigration link to case

Person of interest had 'creepy' smile, witness says

-- Ari Bloomekatz and Andrew Blankstein

Video: RickSavageKROQ via You Tube

Map: Shows locations of fires possibly linked to recent arson spree. Click through for more information.