LA Man Charged with Arson Was Upset About Police Killings, Witnesses Say

Dawud Abdulwali is charged with arson of a structure. Facebook

Dawud Abdulwali is charged with arson of a structure. Facebook

A man police say is responsible for one of the largest structural fires in Los Angeles history was upset about the national trend of African-American deaths at the hands of police, according to witness testimony.

Prosecutors held a preliminary hearing Tuesday for the case against Dawud Abdulwali, 57, accused of setting fire to the DaVinci apartment complex, a 75,000 square-foot, seven-story site under construction in Downtown L.A., The Los Angeles Times reports. The December 2014 blaze spread to a nearby city-owned building and caused $100 million in damages. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Popaul Tshimanga said Abdulwali bragged about the fire and ranted about Mike Brown at a Hollywood party they attended a week later.

“He was mad,” Tshimanga said, adding that the defendant said “he burned the building” near LA’s 110 freeway. “He didn’t like the way the cops were killing Black people.”

Tshimanga said that both he and Abdulwali were under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the party.

Tshimanga’s statements echoed those of Abdulwali’s former roommate, Edwyn Gomez, who previously told investigators that he heard the defendant speak strongly about Ferguson, Missouri protests following the shooting death of Brown and wanted vengeance.

“Cops kill my people,” Gomez recalled Abduwali saying. “We should go do this, we should go burn some [expletive] down…. We should go break some windows.”

Gomez denied that he heard his former roommate make those comments during Tuesday’s hearing and appeared distressed while listening to an audio recording of his conversation with police officers. Gomez said he was not aware he was being recorded at the time.

Gomez said the interview with police left him feeling “manipulated” and “confused” and admitted that Abdulwali provided him shelter when he was homeless and had “helped me out more than anybody in my life.”

Both men said that they didn’t go to police because they didn’t take Abdulwali’s comments seriously at the time.

Back to top