A gruesome discovery was made in Chinatown Tuesday morning after a woman’s body was set on fire and stuffed inside a shopping cart left on the street, LAPD said.
Police said they don’t yet know whether the woman died before or after being set on fire, and she was so badly burned they can’t even tell how old she was.
The charred remains of clothing were left behind after a woman’s body was wedged inside this shopping cart and set on fire at Wilhardt and Main Streets, according to the LAPD.
Detectives said the gruesome scene was discovered just before 5 Tuesday morning by a man arriving at work in the industrial art district.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
"The fire was still burning - that person did use a fire extinguisher to put out that fire," said LAPD Lt. Ryan Rabbett.
Police said surveillance video from area businesses spotted a man on a bicycle around the time of the fire. He was seen heading toward the Main Street Bridge - a block away - where police also searched for evidence.
"It’s just incredibly sad. This isn’t what this neighborhood is about at all," Genevieve Burress said.
Burress lives nearby, and says she doesn’t feel unsafe here despite numerous homeless encampments and drug activity after dark.
“I’ve seen people using drugs and running around the railroad tracks. I’ve called the police, and seen people light fires. The fire department has been called a few times," she said.
Police don’t know if the victim was homeless because they haven’t yet been able to identify her.
Sarah Buckley, who works at a nearby art studio, believes the inhumanity shown here is the result of society’s systemic failures to address mental health issues.
"People getting driven to that place - it would take a lot for the human mind to come up with a reaction to do something like that to someone, which is just hideous," she said.
LAPD has not released the surveillance video, and detectives aren’t saying whether it captured images of the woman being set on fire, but LAPD does have images of the man on the bicycle, and investigators are looking for him now.
Anyone with information on the death was urged to call 877-LAPD-247.