The Board of Fire Commissioners and the Los Angeles Fire Department executive leadership recognized the LAFD Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section (ACTS) Inter-Agency House of Worship Arson Task Force for their tireless work in identifying, capturing, and convicting a person who was preying on churches in the Los Angeles area.
In 1996, the LAFD formed the Los Angeles House of Worship Arson Task Force comprised of members from the LAFD, LAPD, ATF, and FBI. However, after the Resurrection Church Fire in 2018, the LAFD assembled over 25 personnel from agencies across the region to form the first ever LAFD Inter-Agency House of Worship Arson Task Force. This included personnel from LAPD, Glendale Police Department, Pasadena Police Department, Pasadena Fire Department, ATF, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The combined agency efforts led by LAFD ACTS Captain Scott La Rue, revealed four cases of arson and attempted arson targeting churches and other houses of worship within Los Angeles. With evidence and a potential suspect, the LAPD Major Crimes Division and Criminal Conspiracy Section in conjunction with LAFD and Pasadena Arson Investigators, set up a 24-hour surveillance that ultimately caught the suspect in the act.
The suspect, 25 year old Christian Michael Garcia, was taken into custody where he was linked to incidents in the cities of Fresno, Norco, Chino, the City of Los Angeles, and the County of Los Angeles. With total estimated damages of $763,000, the suspect ultimately confessed to committing the crimes. On January 29, 2018, Deputy District Attorneys Joy Roberts, Holly Harpham, and Rachel Bowers from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Arson/ Explosives Section filed 22 charges associated with vandalism, arson, commercial burglary, and hate crimes. In February 2019, the suspect pled guilty to all charges and faces 40 years in a state mental institution.
In addition to our agency partners, the following members of the LAFD Inter-Agency House of Worship Arson Task Force were officially recognized on February 19, 2019, for their leadership coordinating the task force, instrumental contributions towards making an arrest, and commitment to gaining justice for the City of Los Angeles:
Captain II/ PM Scott La Rue
Captain I Tim Halloran
FFIII/ Investigator Rosa Tufts
FFIII/ Investigator Mario Newte
FFIII/ Investigator Les Wilkerson
FFIII/ Investigator Gus Gaeta
Arson Forensic Photographer Harry Gavin
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