[L.A. County DA] – The man suspected of setting more than four dozen fires in Hollywood and West Hollywood over the New Year’s weekend was charged by the District Attorney’s Office today with multiple counts of arson.
Harry Burkhart, 24 (dob 7-12-1987), is scheduled to appear for arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Superior Court Department 30, fifth floor, Foltz Criminal Justice Center, 210 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.
“After reviewing the available evidence, we filed 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure,” said District Attorney Steve Cooley. “The current charges relate to arson fires at 12 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.
“The complaint also alleges that the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire,” he said. “If found true, the allegation could mean additional custody time for the defendant.
“The investigation of the 52 fires believed connected to this defendant is not over. Appropriate action will be taken as further evidence is presented for our review.”
Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney of the Target Crimes Division asked the court in case No. BA392381 to hold Burkhart without bail.
From Friday, Dec. 30 until Burkhart’s arrest early Monday, the string of fires terrorized residents of Hollywood and the Westside. No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but property damage to homes and automobiles was in the millions of dollars. Most of the fires were started in automobiles. In many cases, flames spread to structures.
After Burkhart’s arrest by a reserve Sheriff’s deputy in West Hollywood, the defendant’s minivan and residence were searched and evidence recovered, Cooley said. Burkhart, who travels on a German passport but purportedly was born in Chechnya, was staying with his mother in Hollywood. She currently is in federal custody in connection on a German provisional warrant for her arrest on fraud-related crimes. Her immigration/extradition cases are pending in federal court.
The District Attorney noted that it was federal authorities who first identified Burkhart as the possible suspect after the news media aired and published video of a man leaving the scene of one of the fires. Burkhart had attended his mother’s federal immigration hearing in Los Angeles on Dec. 29.
Cooley praised the hard work of the task force formed after 19 of the fires broke out on Friday, Dec. 30. Los Angeles police and city fire fighters were joined by Sheriff’s deputies and county fire fighters in the effort. Federal ATF agents also joined in the investigation. Cooley said prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Target Crimes Division worked closely with the task force from the beginning of the investigation.
The District Attorney added that if convicted, Burkhart faces a prison sentence.
“Arson of an inhabited structure is a violent felony punishable by state prison, not a state prison offense punishable by county jail,” Cooley said.