A German man who several sources said "is believed to be the same person seen in a surveillance video released by police Sunday" was detained this morning near Sunset and Fairfax, the L.A. Times says. He was reportedly driving a blue minivan with Canadian plates. Detectives found materials that could have been used to set fires, according to the sources. He is being questioned.
The van was spotted by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reserve deputy who was new to the job, LAPD commander Andy Smith said. The van's description had been sent to law enforcement officers on the streets.
[* 10:30 update: "I feel very good that we've got the right guy," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters at the Rose Parade. The man "had the right stuff in his van, and we are very confident we found our man."]
The man appears to have been battling the U.S. government over the immigration status of a relative, but the officials said they don't know if this played any role in the case. The Los Angeles Police Department is in communication with federal immigration officials concerning the dispute, the law enforcement sources said....
The detention followed a morning of arson fires popping up across the Hollywood area Monday. Eleven fires were reported in two hours, beginning at 1:30 a.m., most burning cars and carports in apartment complexes, police and fire officials said.
A total of 55 "fires of concern" have broken out in the Los Angeles area since Friday, possibly the work of one arsonist, a fire official said early Monday.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement this morning on the fires spree.
Over the past few days we have been faced with an ongoing series of arson fires committed by an individual with wanton disregard for the lives and property of Angelenos. Thankfully, there have been no lives lost to these criminal acts and only minor injuries to date.
After another series of fires last night that brought the total to 54 since Friday, I am encouraged by the detainment this morning of a 'person of interest' in Hollywood. While the investigation continues, I am thankful for the ongoing and relentless effort by the LAFD, LAPD and other agencies to respond to these incidents and pursue every lead toward an arrest in the case. I also want to thank Angelenos for their vigilance these past few days and their patience as our public safety agencies worked under extremely challenging circumstances to not only handle the rash of arson fires, but to protect the rest of the City, as well, over the New Year Holiday.
Here's YouTube video of the scene where the man was stopped.
Photo: YouTube screen grab from scene