German man charged over LA arson spree
LOS ANGELES — A German man arrested following a four-day arson spree in Los Angeles over New Year has been charged on 37 felony counts, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The charges were announced before a court appearance by Harry Burkhart, 24, over the fire-setting spree, which kept the West Coast city and the Hollywood district on edge over the end-of-year holiday.
He faces 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure, prosecution officials said.
In all there were 53 deliberately-set fires in Hollywood and surrounding districts, causing more than $2 million in damage in the biggest arson spree since the 1992 LA riots.
Burkhart was arrested in the early hours of Monday after a massive manhunt. On Tuesday the State Department said it had tipped off LA police about Burkhart because he was linked to another German national sought by Berlin, believed to be his mother.
Dorothee Burkhart coincidentally told a judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday that her son was mentally ill, as she appeared in court, apparently unaware that her son had been arrested over the arson.
“Where is he? Dead? … Maybe the German Nazi know our address,” she said according to the LA Times newspaper, adding in broken English: “He is mental ill.”
No one was killed or seriously injured in the attacks, most of which targeted cars parked either outside homes or in car ports under apartment buildings.
In Germany, prosecutors in the central city of Marburg said Wednesday that Harry Burkhart is also being investigated in his native country on charges of arson and fraud.
Authorities are looking into a fire that took place at a property in central Germany in October last year. “When the fire was extinguished, there were indications of arson,” said Annemarie Wied, the spokeswoman for the state prosecutor’s office.