Police Make Arrest in "Devastating" Da Vinci Fire in Downtown LA - NBC Southern California

Police Make Arrest in "Devastating" Da Vinci Fire in Downtown LA

The fire destroyed the seven-story Da Vinci Apartments complex in December 2014. Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Man, 56, Accused of Torching Da Vinci Complex

    A 56-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of torching the Da Vinci apartment complex under construction in downtown LA in December. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Published Thursday, May 28, 2015)

    Police have made an arrest in the "devastating" downtown Los Angeles blaze that torched an under-construction apartment complex, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

    The fire destroyed the seven-story Da Vinci Apartments complex at 900 West Temple Street in December 2014, covering some 180,000 square feet. Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

    Dawud Abdulwali, 56, of Los Angeles was arrested without incident Tuesday morning on an unrelated traffic charge and was later booked on suspicion of aggravated arson and arson of a structure, according to a written statement from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

    There were no additional suspects, said Special Agent Carlos Canino of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

    Arrest in DTLA Apartment Fire

    [LA] Arrest in DTLA Apartment Fire
    Authorities made an arrest in a fire at a downtown Los Angeles apartment complex that was under construction. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.
    (Published Wednesday, May 27, 2015)

    Abdulwali was exposed as a squatter by the NBC4 I-Team in 2010, when he was found to be living in a foreclosed mansion in Woodland Hills. At the time he identified himself as Dawud Walli on what appeared to be a falsified lease for the vacant three-story home.

    Multiple law enforcement sources identified "Dawud Walli" as the suspected arsonist Dawud Abdulwali to NBC4.

    Law enforcement sources earlier told NBC4 Abdulwali was booked on charges of suspicion of malicious arson and reckless arson, but it was not clear what charges the district attorney would be filing.

    Booking records show Abdulwali was being held on more than $1 million bail. If convicted, Abdulwali faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the LAFD.

    Officials offered no motive and released few details on how the investigation led them to Abdulwali.

    "All the evidence that we have right now points to this person as a suspect," Canino said. "We have zero evidence at this time that this was a terrorism event."

    Canino said there was no indication that Abdulwali had a connection to the Da Vinci complex.

    The blaze damaged nearby high-rise structures, melted overhead signs on the Harbor (110) Freeway and melted computers of a neighboring office building on Figueroa Street.

    Investigators said mid-December they found an accelerant pointing to arson.

    Rewards totaling an unprecedented $170,000 were announced in January to help make an arrest. However, Mayor Eric Garcetti said public tips did not lead to the arrest.

    Authorities also released surveillance images of two people spotted near the scene after the fire, but police said Abdulwali was not the person in either of those images.

    Reward in Downtown LA Fire

    [LA] Reward Offered in Downtown LA Apartment Fire
    A $75,000 reward for information in an arson case that caused tens of millions of dollars in damage at a downtown LA apartment construction site will be considered. Adrian Arambulo reports Wednesday Jan. 21, 2015 for Today in LA.
    (Published Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015)

    Terrazas has called the "devastating" fire "one of the largest structure fires the LAFD has had in recent memory."

    The blaze caused up to $30 million in damage to the under-construction Da Vinci Apartments.

    The fire also caused between $50 and $60 million in damage to the adjacent city building, according to the fire department.

    Phil Drechsler contributed to this report.

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