Nightly News   |  January 03, 2012

LA arson suspect remains jailed

The suspect in a four-day arson rampage in Los Angeles remains in jail pending his first court appearance Wednesday. Officials believe 24-year old German national Harry Burkhart acted alone in setting some 52 car fires. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: In this country, if you've been following the news from the West Coast the past few days then you know this was welcomed news this morning. They woke up to find out there were no fires in LA overnight. A four-day arson spree stopped cold after police arrested the man they say was behind it all. Tonight we're learning more about his possible motive and about how he was finally stopped. We get our report tonight from NBC 's Mike Taibbi in Hollywood .

MIKE TAIBBI reporting: When 24-year- old German national Harry Burkhart was pulled over at 3 AM Monday he reportedly said, 'I hate America .' What is certain is that officials see him at this point as a suspect who acted alone in setting some 52 car fires over four nights, many of those fires scorching adjacent apartment buildings where thousands lived and slept.

Sheriff LEE BACA (Los Angeles County Sheriff): A serial arsonist, I believe has been caught.

TAIBBI: Here's how authorities say he was caught. When this surveillance video was released by police Sunday night, an immigration official recognized Burkhart . He said the German national had been very angry at a recent hearing about his mother's pending deportation. And everything known about Burkhart was immediately circulated to the huge task force working the case.

Chief CHARLIE BECK (Los Angeles Police Department): Thousands of law enforcement officials had the information when they needed to have it, and that's what led to this arrest.

TAIBBI: And who actually pulled Burkhart over here on Sunset Boulevard ? An attorney working as a volunteer reserve deputy sheriff for $1 a year. Applause at a press conference for that volunteer deputy Shervin Lalezary .

Mr. SHERVIN LALEZARY: Thank you to the two officers who backed me up.

TAIBBI: During another deportation hearing today, Burkhart 's mother, Dorothy , blurted out at one point, 'Where's my son? He's mentally ill.' Her son remains in jail without bail; and the apartment they shared is now vacant, within shouting distance of several of the fires Burkhart is alleged to have set. Mike Taibbi , NBC News, Hollywood.