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Thirty-Eight Years Ago Today: Hall of Justice "Rocked By Blast"

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, September 05, 2008, at 10:48AM
Hall of Justice Headline Los Angeles Times, 9/5/1970

Early in the morning hours of September 5th, 1970, an explosion on the sixth floor of the Hall of Justice demolished a concrete wall near the office of District Attorney Evelle J. Younger. Investigators found the remnants of a homemade bomb on an adjoining stairwell. Being held upstairs in one of the Hall's cells at the time: Charles Manson.

The headline above ran in the Los Angeles Times on the day of the explosion, taking the full width of the front page.

At the time, the building housed the Sheriff's Department, District Attorney's office, coroner's office, public defender's office, 11 Superior Courts, and six Municipal Courts. The top three floors of the structure were devoted to cells, holding 2,000 prisoners.

In 1974, Younger was again the target of a blast, this time as Attorney General. His new office location was just a block away from the old one, in the Old State Building across the street from the Times. This larger explosion caused "considerable damage" to the 5th, 6th and 7th floors of the building. The "Weather Underground" called the Times claiming responsibility, and directed the paper to a "communique" taped to the bottom of a phone booth shelf at 12th and Broadway.

That document revealed that the Weather Underground was responsible for the 1970 bomb, and that it had been placed in response to the death of Ruben Salazar. Salazar, a Times reporter and news editor for KMEX, died after being struck by a tear gas canister at a Chicano anti-Vietnam War protest on August 30, 1970. The Underground targeted Younger because "No prosecution of the police murderers followed."

In recent years, the Hall of Justice has stood empty as government agencies debate who will pay for renovations that would make the building earthquake-safe and inhabitable.

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