Families believe South Los Angeles explosion contributed to 2 deaths

Loved ones say a 72-year-old retired physical education teacher died weeks after being forced out of his lifelong home following a June 30 explosion in South Los Angeles.

"It was just too much to take," Loren Hairston said of Auzie Houchins, her partner of 20 years. 

The pair were inside the home he was born in on East 27th Street when an LAPD bomb squad made an apparent miscalculation of the weight of fireworks they were trying to safely detonate. Every window in the home shattered, and they remained inside for two days before being told to go.

"He didn’t want to leave. And finally, they told us we got to leave. Everybody else is leaving and the roof is going to fall on you and the house is unsafe and we don’t want you to die," she said. 

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But she says they experienced a multitude of issues with their new housing, and Houchins struggled. He passed away on July 22.

"He’s a man that can’t take change, he’s been in the house from birth to – he was 72 – and he just can’t take any change and it just got to him," Hairston said. 

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said that he died of natural causes, including sudden cardiac disfunction.

Community members, friends and victims gathered Monday near the explosion site to share their stories and to demand justice.

"There’s still windows boarded up all over this community, and it’s been over a month. And that’s shameful," said Ron Gonchez, Vice President of the South Central Neighborhood Council. "If this was Westwood, if this was Beverly Hills, if this was Santa Monica, would we be here a month later with boarded-up windows? We don’t think so."

Some displaced residents said that they live in constant fear that their hotel stays will expire soon, and want the terms of their temporary housing to be put in writing.


"Some of us can’t even go to sleep because we’re thinking, ‘OK, what about today’s the day they’re going to move us out?’" asked Maria Valasquez, who has lived on the street for years. "We didn’t want to be homeless. We didn’t choose to be homeless."

Another victim of the blast reportedly had a roof collapse on him, and he later died. FOX 11 has not been able to officially confirm his identity or cause of death.

"The police and the bomb squad thought it was a good idea to detonate explosives in the middle of the community and to not evacuate that said community? That’s not just negligence, that’s criminal negligence," said Gonchez.