Update: Investigators Believe Park Burning Death Was Accidental

LAFD's Investigation Section is now handling the case.

Update: Arson Investigator Dan Gaytan of the Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed that investigators believe the burning death of a man whose body was discovered in Highland Park last Friday was accidental.

"There doesn't appear to be any foul play," Gaytan told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch. "The cause of death appears to be smoke inhalation and thermal burns."

He added that investigators have confirmed that the man who died was homeless and are waiting to confirm his identity with the coroner's office. 

Gaytan declined to share precise information about how the fire was started, saying that investigators would first need to peak to the deceased's family.

Contrary to previous police reports, which had placed the incident at Arroyo Seco Park near the intersection of Avenue 60 and the Route 110 South exit, Gayton said the man's body was discovered just north of the intersection of Avenue 60 and Benner Street.

"We accessed the body through the park, but the incident didn't actually occur in the park," Gaytan said.

Previously: Investigators believe the burning death of a man early Friday morning was accidental, according to LAPD Officer Curtis Davis.

Davis--who was briefed on the incident and provided an update to Patch--said the investigation has been taken over by the Los Angeles Fire Department's Arson Investigation Section. 

"They believe the fire was accidentally sparked by a lantern or some sort of lighting device," Davis said.

According to Sgt. Sanford Rosenberg, the man's body was discovered at around 5:30 a.m. last Friday at Arroyo Drive and Avenue 60 near Arroyo Seco Park--also known as Hermon Park.

LAPD was unable to provide identification for the deceased.

Check back with Patch for more details as we get them.

Margarito Martinez April 10, 2012 at 01:52 AM
How sad. I imagine some poor homeless person lighting a fire in attempt to keep warm and sleeping too close to the fire. I have heard of it happening many times before. Our materialistic society causes these kinds of tragedies!
NortheastLA April 10, 2012 at 06:25 AM
According to a witness I spoke with in the park this morning (who wishes to remain anonymous), directly before the alleged incident the homeless man was seen peddling a bicycle in the park at a high rate of speed from the Dog Park towards the exit on Via Marisol. The witness had the distinct impression that the man was being chased. This account, if accurate, appears to contradict LAPD's theory outlined in Patch's update.
Jason April 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I'm confused. This "distinct impression" was created simply because the guy was going fast on his bicycle? Did this witness actually see anyone "chasing" the homeless guy? And did the witness actually see the homeless guy on fire? I'd say your post is actually more confusing and contradictory than the LAPD's.
Margarito Martinez April 10, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Agreed. NortheastLA's witness has supposed victem riding AWAY from where the incident happened. The report said the dead man was discovered at 5:30AM. Not too many people out and about at that hour...I don't think this so called witness is reliable.
Erika April 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Well, I did see two things as I drove by. I saw some items that seemed to belong to what I thought was a homeless person. I did also see a bicycle thrown on the ground. I drove by at about 6:30 a.m. I didn't see the body but I did see multiple police cars, the belongings and the bicycle laying there.
Pascual Hahamovic April 11, 2012 at 05:41 PM
There are two homeless guys (one caucasian, one hispanic) who live behind the southeast corner of the tennis courts there and have for quite some time. I have seen them cooking on some kind of grill more than once. Pretty well known and established (camp) at this park. It seems as if everyone there sort of regards them as innocuous junkies, including park staff.
Margarito Martinez April 11, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I rode down there today to see for myself. The body was obviously found under the Avenue 60 bridge, directly next to the park and not in the closed park itself. No homeless person would be camped there, as I first imagined. Most disturbing is the freshly painted tag of one of L.A.'s most deadly street gangs, in bright red, directly over the spot where the victem was found. This was no accident. It is inconcievable that someone could ignite themselves on fire and burn to death along the street curb. Since police have said this was a "transient" don't expect any real efforts to discover the truth behind this hienous crime. I don't have to explain why not. Word on the street is no one believes this was an accient. The folks I talked to are afraid to say much beyond that. They are among the most vulnerable among us, after all.


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