Los Angeles police released security camera images late on Sunday of a man suspected over a spree of arson attacks that kept Hollywood on edge over the New Year.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has also asked residents to leave their porch and car port lights on overnight, after about 40 fires were set over three nights including New Year’s Eve.
The suspect — caught on camera after a blaze in a parking lot near Hollywood’s main tourist area — is believed to be in his late 20s to early 30s, and has a receding hairline and dark hair worn in a ponytail, police said.
Federal investigators have been called in to help the LAPD and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) probe the string of arson attacks, one of the worst sprees in the city since the 1992 race riots.
Seven new fires were reported on the night leading into New Year’s day, including one in an underground parking lot near the heart of Tinsel Town’s tourist district, the LAFD said.
Amateur video published by the Los Angeles Times newspaper caught the blaze in the basement of the Hollywood and Highland center, near Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where tourists flock to see celebrity handprints and the Walk of Fame stars.
Video and still camera images released late on Sunday show the suspect, dressed all in black, coming out of the parking lot. Witnesses and other video footage indicate the man was at several of the locations where arson fires were set, said Los Angeles Police Commander Mike Moriarty, who said it was believed there were at least two arsonists.
One suspect has already been arrested, police said: a 22-year-old man, Samuel Arrington, charged with starting three fires on Thursday. However, he was behind bars overnight on Friday and Saturday, when new blazes were set.
More than 30 fires were started overnight on Thursday and Friday, mostly targeting cars either outside homes or in car ports under buildings, which then caught fire. No serious injuries have so far been reported.
Damaged property included a Hollywood Hills home where singer Jim Morrison of The Doors — whose hits included Light My Fire — once lived, and where he wrote the legendary band’s Love Street.
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith urged residents to keep their porch and garage lights on at night and report any suspicious activity to help police catch the culprits responsible for the arson spree.
City and county officials, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have posted a reward of US$60,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.