arson-presser-av-beck.jpgMayor Antonio Villaraigosa says at the presser that Burkhart has been booked on one count of arson. Chief Beck says they got their man.
" /> Police ID arson suspect as Harry Burkhart, 24 * - LA Observed

Police ID arson suspect as Harry Burkhart, 24 *

arson-presser-av-beck.jpgHe's not 55, as previously reported. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says at tonight's presser that Burkhart has been booked on one count of arson.

The gathered law enforcement and fire personnel at the press conference just applauded reserve deputy sheriff Shervin Lalezary. He is a 30-year-old Beverly Hills real estate attorney who was on his fourth shift as a deputy when he pulled over Burkhart's van early this morning, says sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore. (Some in the media joined in the applause.) There are about 20 cameras here and national media including New York Times bureau chief Adam Nagourney and the Daily Beast.

LAPD chief Charlie Beck told the media the big break came when U.S. Immigration officials recognized the suspect from the video released yesterday. They made contact with the arson task force at 10 p.m. last night and provided a name. The suspect's van was stopped by Lalezary within hours.

* 9:20 update: I'm back at my desk now. In addition to Villaraigosa and Beck, the line of officials behind the podium included fire chiefs, Sheriff Lee Baca, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge and others.

From the L.A. Times story tonight:

Law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, first said the suspect was a 55-year-old named Harry Burkhart.

Police later said Burkhart was actually 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 alleged motives but speculated that he might have been furious over 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.

LA Observed photo

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