SOUTH EL MONTE >> Three people died and three suspects are being sought for a firebombing Saturday at a tire shop that also injured a firefighter responding to the blaze, authorities said.
The alleged attack took place about 5:30 a.m. at Cheque Tires, 1252 Santa Anita Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“We received a call from an informant that he saw three males throw a Molotov cocktail at a business,” Sgt. Jim Dexter said.
Deputies and firefighters found the building “fully engulfed” in flames, he said.
“Deputies and fire department personnel saw a man within the business compound and behind the heavily locked gates of the location, badly burned and trying to escape the fire,” according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Despite rescue personnel’s efforts to rescue the victim, he was overcome by flames and succumbed to his injuries,” she said.
As the investigation continued, officials discovered to additional bodies inside the charred business Saturday afternoon, Deputy Ryan Rouzan said. The two additional victims were initially described only as adults.
The deaths were being investigated as homicides.
A firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his face while battling the fire, Dexter said. The injury was not believed to be serious.
More than 65 firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to extinguish the flames, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan said.
They also rescued a dog from the property, which was turned over to animal control officials, he said.
The suspects were last seen fleeing south on Santa Anita Avenue from the scene of the fire in a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, sheriff’s officials said. No further suspect description was known.
The victim’s name was not released Saturday pending positive identification and notification of his family, Saldana said.
The motive in the fatal firebombing remained a mystery.
Santa Anita Avenue remained closed to traffic as sheriff’s and fire officials continued working at the scene Saturday afternoon.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTOS by James Carbone