The LAPD Exploded a Bunch of Fireworks in the Street Because Math Is Hard

"We believe a human error went to the miscalculation of the amount of material going into that vessel," the chief said.
July 20, 2021, 4:10pm
Police and bomb squad were called to a home following a tip midday near the intersection of East 27th Street and San Pedro Street on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
 Police and bomb squad were called to a home following a tip midday near the intersection of East 27th Street and San Pedro Street on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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The Los Angeles Police Department just came to a conclusion we’ve all understood since grade school: Math is hard. 

During a news conference Monday, LAPD Chief Michael Moore told reporters that “human error” caused the massive fireworks explosions inside one of the department's bomb squad trucks on June 30. The detonation, which was caught on video and posted to Twitter, injured 17 people, including 10 law enforcement officers in the city’s Southside.

You see, bomb technicians on the scene that day calculated the stash of explosives to have a net explosive weight, or essentially firepower, of 16.5 pounds. That amount was well below the 25-pound threshold that the Total Containment Vessel, a massive device used to contain the explosion once they set it off, could handle.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), however, has now calculated the net explosive weight to be around 42 pounds, about two and a half times as much as the LAPD thought.

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"We believe a human error went to the miscalculation of the amount of material going into that vessel," the police chief said during the presser. It turns out, the officers were only eyeballing how much flash power the fireworks contained using a miniscule sample of the explosives and then estimating the weight of all of the explosives. 

“This estimation was based on appearance, and a physical scale was not used,” Moore added.


The ATF also concluded the total containment vehicle used that day may have been defective. 

The final investigation of the explosive won’t be concluded for another 30 to 60 days.

On June 30, Los Angeles police received a call from a concerned neighbor about the fireworks and conducted a search of the home, where they discovered more than 5,000 pounds of the explosives. Since some of the fireworks were leaking, they determined the haul was too dangerous to transport and loaded the explosives into the containment vessel in hopes of detonating them safely.

Instead, when the fireworks went off inside the truck, the entire vehicle exploded and damaged 22 nearby homes, 13 businesses, and 37 vehicles.

At the time, no explanation was offered. 

“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don’t know why,” Moore said during a press conference.