A preliminary hearing was held Tuesday in the case against Dawud Abdulwali, the man accused of torching part of the under-construction Da Vinci apartment complex in Downtown Los Angeles in December 2014. The Da Vinci itself was part of notorious developer Geoff Palmer's oversized and unattractive Renaissance Collection, and like most of his buildings, was kept squat so it could be built out of wood rather than steel, and sat right next to the freeway. The massive fire that erupted was so intense that it melted freeway signs and cracked the windows of nearby buildings. If the hearing is any indication, the trial will be almost as dramatic as the inferno itself.
According to the LA Times, the main pieces of evidence brought forth against Abdulwali are a surveillance video from a bank close to the crime scene and the testimony of two witnesses who said he talked with them about burning down the building. According to one witness, Abdulwali was not motivated by a hatred of skybridges or an aesthetic aversion to the Olive Garden-style architecture; rather, he burned the building in anger over police murders of African-Americans. That's certainly not an explanation we were expecting for this particular crime, but it appears to be the angle prosecutors want to use.
Surveillance video shows what appears to be a car belonging to the Independent Taxi Cab Company pulling up in front of the building. As prosecutors later explained, Abdulwali purchased one of the company's cabs and was driving it as a "bandit taxi cab driver," which seems like a very exciting way of saying he was driving an unregistered cab. The video shows a man exit the vehicle and enter the building; a flash of light can be seen a few moments later.
The Times also notes that another video was shown at the hearing—this one shot as the fire grew into an inferno. Most bizarrely, this second video was shot by a freelance cameraman who just happened to show up at the exact moment the fire began to spread and apparently compared himself at the hearing to Jake Gyllenhaall's terrifying, morally bankrupt character in the movie Nightcrawler. Is it too late to investigate this guy as an accomplice? Just wondering.
- Man accused of Da Vinci apartment arson was angry about police killings of African Americans, witnesses say [LA Times]
- Los Angeles Wants $20 Million From Developer of Burnt Downtown Apartment Building [Curbed LA]
- Geoff Palmer's Burned Da Vinci Apartments Will be Back in Under a Year [Curbed LA]
- Terrible Fauxtalian Fortress Lost in Spectacular Downtown Fire [Curbed LA]
- Downtown's Giant Da Vinci Building Burned Because It Was Bad [Curbed LA]
- 7 Awful Stories About the Man Destroying Downtown LA [Curbed LA]