(LOS ANGELES) — The German man who authorities have called “the most dangerous arsonist in L.A. history” was recognized on surveillance tape by a sharp-eyed State Department agent, officials said Tuesday.
An agent in the department’s Diplomatic Security field office recognized accused arsonist Harry Burkhart in the surveillance footage circulated by the Los Angeles Police Department as the son of a woman who was being extradited.
The agent, who was not being identified, contacted the LAPD, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told ABC News.
“Over the New Year’s Eve weekend, that task force put out a video showing a person of interest exiting a parking lot and asked for the public’s help,” Nuland said.
The agent was familiar with Burkhart because of a “separate ongoing investigation about a German national that we’ve been having with the LAPD,” she said. The tip led to Burkhart’s arrest, Nuland said.
Burkhart, 24, will appear in court Wednesday to face charges that he allegedly set a series of 52 blazes in the Los Angeles area over a period of four days.
Authorities said they were “very confident” in the arrest of Burkhart, who told police officers, “I hate America” as they placed him under arrest.
Burkhart, a German national, may have been motivated by his anger at U.S. immigration authorities that stemmed from a deportation hearing involving his mother, Dorothee, that took place in Los Angeles County about a week and a half ago, sources told ABC News.
Burkhart broke into a tirade, spewing angry anti-American statements, during the hearing for his mother, before being escorted from the courtroom by U.S. Marshalls, officials told ABC News.
Officials said he shouted “F… the United States” during the Dec. 29 hearing, one day before he disappeared and the fires in Hollywood began.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN
Dakin Andone, CNN
Morgan Loew, CNN