Los Angeles

Man Arrested on Suspicion of Murder After 5 Found Dead in Westlake Fire Wreckage

A man accused of intentionally lighting a Westlake building on fire where five people were found dead was arrested on suspicion of murder Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Five people, who had not yet been identified by authorities, were killed in the blaze, the Los Angeles Fire Department said Tuesday.

The man accused of setting the fire was identified as Johnny Sanchez, 21, according to the LAPD Captain Bill Hayes. Officials said he was a transient.

After a blaze ripped through what was supposed to be an abandoned building at 2411 West 8th Street Monday night, firefighters pulled three people from the blaze. One died later at the hospital, officials said. 

On Tuesday, detection dogs began scouring the rubble and discovered two men and two women, all deceased, bringing the death toll to five. The four were all found huddled together under a "significant amount of debris," fire officials said.

The fire began on the second floor of the two-story building Monday evening at 7 p.m., quickly engulfing the majority of the structure.

More than 140 firefighters battled the blaze at its height. As many as five people were also injured. 

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the people pulled from the building Monday were not allowed to be there as the building was vacant. Those killed appeared to be transients, fire officials said.

Investigators said that though the cause of the fire had not yet been determined, they believe that Sanchez had a dispute with the other homeless people living in the building and intentionally set the fire.

He was being held on $1 million bail, police said. He suffered minor injuries in the blaze. 

Police said the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office may seek additional charges after all of the victims have been identified. 

Sanchez has a history of narcotics and domestic violence violations, police said. 

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