A Black elderly man has passed away after an LAPD bomb squad car exploded with seized illegal fireworks over a month ago.
According to the Daily News, the LAPD vehicle exploded during a botch detonation of illegal fireworks and damaged a south Los Angeles neighborhood. At least 88 residents in the area were left displaced and are now living in apartments rented out by city councilman Curren Price who represents the district.
Others are either living with family or in hotels.
Auzie Houchins, who was confined to a wheelchair prior to the explosion, had been living at a different location after the incident.
Last month, the LAPD killed a 72-year-old Black retired schoolteacher by blowing up his house with him in it.
It's barely making the news. His name was Auzie Houchins. pic.twitter.com/sXuCt0o4uI
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) August 3, 2021
He was identified along with Ramon Reyes, another elderly man, who also died weeks after the blast. Although officials said they "do not believe [the men's deaths were] the result of the explosion," Houchins' relatives said the 72-year-old would still be living if the blast never occurred.
“It was just too much, too much,” Lorna Hairston, Houchins' longtime partner, told Spectrum News Channel 1. “He’s not the kind of man to accept any change.”
Houchins and Reyes were both described as longtime residents in the neighborhood and were known for being kind men.
A neighbor of the men said their deaths could have been connected to the stress of the explosion.
“Come on — they worked so hard for their houses,” neighbor Maria Velaseuz said. ‘Within minutes, to have their homes blown away. You don’t play with those kinda things — people’s health.”
Velaseuz is among a group of people to receive emergency funding but said the city should be required to cover the repairs of her home which was damaged.
The New York Times reported that technicians were attempting to dispose of 42 pounds of fireworks when they underestimated the weight of the explosives. Police Chief Michel Moore said personnel estimated the weight of the explosives, incorrectly guessing 16.5 pounds which was 60% less than the actual weight.
“I want to personally express my apologies to every resident, business operator and customer that was traumatically impacted by this incident,” Chief Moore said. “I’m sorry that this occurred.”
He added that the officers, however, were acting in "good faith" following protocol.
Officers on the scene had previously seized more than 32,000 pounds of illegal fireworks during a house raid on June 30. The seized fireworks were described as leaky and homemade which were deemed to unstable to transport by authorities.
Michael Hoffman, assistant special agent in change of the bureau's Los Angeles office, said the "amount itself could have taken out the entire neighborhood."
An investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is ongoing. Additionally, five members of the bomb squad have been removed pending the investigation's results.