LA arson: 2012’s strangest news story yet

LA arson: 2012's strangest news story yet

Yeah, yeah, dozens of birds falling from the sky is scary, but at this point such mass deaths are pretty run-of-the-mill. The most bizarre story of 2012 — so far — is the tale of 24-year old Harry Burkhart, accused of setting about 50 fires around Los Angeles between Friday morning and his arrest Monday.

Popping up all over town, the blazes briefly terrorized the city as a whole. “Our long, four-day nightmare is over,” Los Angeles County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said after police apprehended alleged serial arsonist Burkhart.

At first glance, Burkhart — wearing a black hoodie and tight, fiendish smile following his arrest — appears to be just a misguided youth. As more details of the suspect emerge, however, the LA arson has taken on a whole new and wholly bizarre slant.

According to the Los Angeles Times, police suspect Burkhart, a German national who had Chechnyan papers, set the fires in retaliation for his mother’s arrest. Was his mother arrested for something banal, like DUI or littering? No. We don’t know why she was arrested, because the German government made the request and the charges are sealed.

Yes, the German government:

The mother of the suspect in a string of arson fires in Los Angeles was arrested last week at the request of the German government.

Dorothee Burkhart in is federal custody in Los Angeles after Germany requested she be detained on an arrest warrant, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

He said he could not disclose the nature of the alleged crime because the case was sealed. The arrest occurred just before the arson spree began.

A senior LAPD official said the suspect had attended a recent immigration hearing regarding his mother’s case and erupted in a tirade, spewing angry anti-American statements.

It was this incident that eventually led police to Burkhart. Several sources said the tip came from an official at the State Department.

So, we have a serial arsonist, a mystery arrest at the behest of the German government and an anonymous State Department official. Are we sure this is an actual crime spree or some viral marketing campaign for Hollywood’s latest blockbuster?