Harry Burkhart, LA arson suspect, motivated by 'anti-American rage'


A passerby inspects damaged cars following an overnight fire started by a suspected serial arsonist in Hollywood, California. 35 fires have been reported in the past two days.


Frederic J. Brown

Harry Burkhart, the 24-year-old German national accused of starting more than 50 fires in Los Angeles, was "motivated by his rage against Americans," prosecutors allege.

According to court documents cited by the LA Times, authorities believe Burkhart would pose a continued threat to the public if released on bail, because of what the Times called his "hatred of Americans and the US government."

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Burkhart was yesterday given bail of $2.85 million. He is due to be arraigned on 37 counts of arson on Jan. 24, though police have indicated that they plan to file several more charges against him.

The 37 charges cover just 12 of the 52 arson attacks Burkhart is suspected of carrying out, Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said, but they are more than enough to send him to prison for life.

The attacks were intended to "harm and terrorize as many residents as possible," the prosecutors' filing said.

Burkhart is said to have been angered by deportation proceedings against his mother, Dorothee Burkhart, who according to the BBC is wanted on 19 counts of fraud in her native Germany, including "failure to pay for a breast augmentation surgery and the taking of security deposits from tenants."

Both Burkharts arrived in the US in Oct. 2011, just days after a fire in an empty house belonging to their family in Marburg, in central Germany. The incident is being treated as arson with insurance fraud, German prosecutors told the Associated Press.

The Burkharts' rented apartment in Hollywood was found to contain newspaper clippings about other suspicious fires in Germany and Los Angeles, LA sheriff's detectives said.

Both Dorothee and her son are currently in police custody, with Harry under suicide watch. According to the AP, the Burkharts have a history of mental illness and Harry has been diagnosed as autistic.

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