Fireball of Deceit Doused by the Arrest of Two Culprits

November 21, 2001

San Fernando Valley: On August 16, 2001, at approximately 3:40 a.m., a structure fire occurred at 5473 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. Members of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s (LAFD) Arson Section determined the fire was incendiary in nature. An individual or individuals poured gasoline throughout the apartment building. The fumes from the gasoline reached a first floor water heater and caused an explosion. The subsequent fire forced Victim Galinda to evacuate her children through a fourth floor apartment window to awaiting Los Angeles City Firefighters. While rescuing her children, the victim was exposed to extreme heat and subsequently fell to her death while awaiting rescue. One suspect, Arturo Ortiz, the apartment manager, was also killed from the blast force of the explosion and subsequent fire. He is believed to be one of the individuals who was pouring gasoline throughout the apartment building.
The combined investigation involving LAPD Criminal Conspiracy Section, ATF, LAFD Arson Section and the District Attorney’s Office, resulted in the filing of two counts of 187 P.C. (Murder), five counts of 451(a) P.C. (Arson Causing Great Bodily Injury), one count of 451(b) P.C. (Arson of an Inhabited Structure), one count of 550(a)(1) P.C. (Insurance Fraud) and one count of 54(a) P.C. (Defrauding an Insurer) against 44-year-old Juan Jose Ortiz and 67-year-old Joseph Donald Lewellen. Subsequently, warrants were issued for their arrest.
On Wednesday, November 21, 2001, members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Conspiracy Section, Los Angeles Fire Department’s Arson Section and the ATF served the warrants and arrested both suspects. The suspects have been booked at Jail Division located at 150 N. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles and are being held on "no bail."
Further inquiries should be made through the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.
This press release was prepared by Public Information Officer Guillermo Campos, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.