The arsonist who set the massive fire at the partially built Da Vinci apartment complex in Downtown Los Angeles after being inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday.
Dawud Abdulwali, who said the fire was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and his rage against police officers, pleaded no contest to one count of arson and admitted to using an accelerant to start the blaze, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and reported by the Los Angeles Times.
According to local NBC affiliate in Los Angles, Abdulwali was also ordered to pay restitution, which is expected to approach $100 million.
The late-night conflagration occurred on Dec. 7, 2014. In addition to destroying the 7-story Da Vinci apartment complex, the fire melted freeway signs and damaged local buildings.
The Times notes that “the blaze caused between $20 million and $30 million in damage to the Da Vinci complex and an additional $50 million in damage to the DWP building, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The apartment complex’s owner also suffered approximately $100 million in lost potential revenue as a result of the fire, according to a probation report filed with the court.”
During one of Abdulwali’s hearings, his former roommate, Edwyn Gomez reportedly told investigators that he heard Abdulwali speak with fervor about seeking vengeance for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the late summer of 2014.
The Times noted at the time that Gomez said Abdulwali told him, “Cops kill my people,” and “We should go do this, we should go burn some [expletive] down … We should go break some windows.”
However, during a subsequent court hearing in May 2016, Gomez said he did not recall telling officers that he heard Abdulwali make those comments before a prosecutor played the recorded conversation. Gomez said he had been grateful to Abdulwali for taking him in as a homeless person and suggesting that he had not reported Abdulwali to authorities because of that kindness to him, and because he had not taken his words seriously.
Prior to his arrest, the reward for information leading to Abdluwali’s arrest and conviction had been set to an unprecedented $170,000.
Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas issued a statement followingAbdulwali’s plea deal: “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.” Terrazas also commended the men and women who were involved in the case.