The Los Angeles Police Department has 21 stations spread across the city and last week, its Southwest Station had seven figures of damage done to it in an arson attack.
During the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday morning, LAPD Chief Michel Moore revealed new details about an incident that took place at the Southwest Station on Martin Luther King Boulevard in South Los Angeles. He said that late on the night of April 6, a woman pushed a shopping cart loaded with “combustibles” to the front of the station.
“According to video evidence that was gathered of the scene, it appears that she set that cart on fire,” Moore told the Police Commission. “And that fire resulted in more than a million dollars in damage to the front and interior of our station there.”
Photos posted on the Southwest Station Twitter feed show damage to the front entrance and lobby of the building, with outdoor walls scorched and an exterior overhang singed by the blaze. Some windows appear melted and their casings mangled, while inside, walls and the ceiling are damaged and wires are dangling. One photo shows ash and smoot obscuring the images of some department command staff.
“We’re blessed that [the fire] stayed to the external portions of the lobby,” and did not go deeper into the building, LAPD Capt. Rodolfo Lopez, who leads the Southwest Station, told LAMag on Thursday morning.
Moore said firefighters responded and extinguished the blaze in approximately 30 minutes, though he noted, “The building did suffer extensive smoke damage.” No one was injured in the attack.
The perpetrator was identified as 30-year-old Mishauna Eaton. Moore said she was caught not far from the station. And according to Sheriff’s Department records, Eaton was arrested at 3:20 a.m. on Friday and is currently being held on $250,000 bail at a detention facility in Lynwood.
Moore said the District Attorney’s office has filed a felony charge of arson of an inhabited building. When asked by a member of the Police Commission if Eaton had prior documented mental health issues, he said he was “not clear,” but stated, “It does appear that she may have been experiencing homelessness.”
According to its website, the Southwest Station has 352 sworn personnel along with 32 civilian staff. It patrols a 13.1-square-mile area of South Los Angeles, with approximately 165,000 residents, including the communities of Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park and West Adams, as well as Exposition Park and the area around USC.
Moore said the station is closed while the LAPD assesses the scope of the damage with its Information Technology Division and the city’s Department of General Services, which handles real estate and office space needs. Lopez said testing has been conducted for asbestos and other chemicals; the department is awaiting the results.
Currently, all Southwest personnel are working out of other police facilities. Lopez said patrol operations are temporarily based in the department’s South Traffic Division on Crenshaw Boulevard, while detectives and specialized units are in the 77th Street Station.
Lopez said that despite the blaze and the temporary closure, there is no slowdown in response times.
“That does not affect our community response to radio calls or normal relations,” Lopez said. “The only thing that has changed is the staging area for patrol and for detectives. It will not change the response that we give to the community.”
Moore and Lopez both said the hope is to get detectives and uniformed personnel back into Southwest Station next week. If that happens, police will be able to work out of the building while repairs are made to the front of the structure. Yet Moore said that even if personnel return quickly, access for the public will be limited.
“I don’t see the front of the facility opening for some time pending those repairs,” he told the Police Commission.
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