After 24 years, Los Angeles police finally made a break in a deadly 1993 arson case that destroyed a Westlake apartment building. The densely packed apartment building lacked proper fire safety equipment and ultimately seven children, two pregnant women, and another adult were were killed in the blaze.
The destructive fire stunned the city and exposed massive flaws in the city’s fire inspection procedures. City leaders and activists pushed for new reforms for the benefit of everyone. However, those investigating the incident long believed the fire was no accident but rather a calculated gang act.
Now, a major break in the case shows those early assumptions were right on the mark. A law enforcement source close to the investigation told the LAPD that three out of four suspects have been arrested on conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the 1993 fire. According to multiple sources, all four suspects are connected to the notorious 18th Street gang. Their motive for setting the fire said to be both part of an effort by the gang to maintain their control of narcotics business in the neighborhood and as retribution against the apartment manager for having ordered them to take their drug dealing out of the location.
Back in 1998, prosecutors filed multiple charges against two male members, Rogelio Andrade and Allan Lobos. However, those charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence. It is unclear at this time whether these two men are the same men arrested this month.
Thus far, officials have released very few details regarding the arrest. They have state that they occurred only following an “extensive and exhaustive investigation.”
Dangerous Fire-Prone Premises: Same Today as 1993
Despite the 1993 fire being deliberately started, it does share some characteristics with the more recent Ghost Ship tragedy. Both buildings were overly packed with personal belongings and furnishings crammed into tiny spaces. All of which only fed into the fires and increased their voracity. The 69-unit Westlake apartment building was home to over 100 residents, most of them poor Latino immigrants living in substandard conditions, and, like Ghost Ship, was not equipped to house them all safely. Both buildings had major fire code violations including missing fire extinguishers and non-functioning fire alarms.