A 58-year-old man charged with setting the partially-built Da Vinci apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles ablaze was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday.
Dawud Abdulwali pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated arson and causing damages in excess of $3.2 million. He admitted to using an accelerant to start the massive fire and is being ordered to pay restitution of nearly $100 million, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Several individuals who knew Abdulwali testified that he started the fire in response to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, that broke out over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and other cases of police brutality toward minorities.
Abdulwali’s former roommate Edwyn Gomez was recorded telling police that Abdulwali said he wanted to “burn some (expletive) down” after the Black Lives Matter protests erupted.
“Did you call the police?” Deputy Public Defender Lowynn Young asked during cross-examination.
“No, because I knew he wasn’t serious,” Abdulwali’s former roommate said.
“You didn’t believe him?” the defense attorney asked.
“No,” Gomez responded.
While no one was injured in the fire, it resulted in millions of dollars in damage, melted freeway signs, and blanketed the downtown area in smoke. It is being dubbed one of L.A. County’s largest structural fires.
The judge said the aggressive fire “could have burned down half of Los Angeles if it had moved to other buildings.”
At the time of the 2014 incident, the Da Vinci apartment complex was reportedly under construction. Abdulwali allegedly poured gasoline on the fourth floor of the building, which quickly engulfed all seven floors and sent black, billowing smoke over the 110 Freeway and caused cars to be backed up for miles.
NBC 4 reported that several buildings in the vicinity were also damaged and 160 windows in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power headquarters building were shattered due to the intensity of the heat.
“Thanks to the hard work of dozens of investigators and the dedicated staff of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, a man who set one of the most expensive and destructive building fires in the city’s history will serve a lengthy prison sentence,” said Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas.
— John Galt 🚂💥🇺🇸 (@JohnGGalt) May 28, 2015
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