Police: Suspect argued with men before fatal LA studio fire

LOS ANGELES — Investigators believe a Los Angeles man had argued with two men hours before he spread gasoline inside a music studio and set it ablaze, killing them and leaving two other people critically injured, police said Monday.

Efrem Demery, 28, was arrested on suspicion of murder after Saturday's fire at the Top Notch Recording Studio, Los Angeles police Capt. William Hayes said.

Investigators are still working to pin down a motive but believe Demery had been hanging out with two of the victims, 28-year-old Devaughn Carter and 30-year-old Michael Pollard, when an argument broke out, Hayes said.

Several hours later, Demery was caught on surveillance video at a gas station across the street from the recording studio, police said. Detectives suspect Demery filled a container with gasoline then walked inside the recording studio, pouring gasoline around one of the rooms before lighting it on fire, Hayes said.

Carter and Pollard, who police said were the "intended targets," died. Two other people — a man in his 20s and a 15-year-old girl — were injured and remained in critical condition on Monday, police said.

The fatal fire was a "senseless and horrific crime," Chief of Detectives Justin Eisenberg said at a news conference.

Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators have not yet determined whether the building was in compliance with building codes or whether there were working smoke alarms, officials said.

"The direct nature of going after these individuals is obviously very heinous," Hayes said. "Arson is a brutal crime and a terrible way to die."

Demery, who has prior arrests for burglary and selling counterfeit goods, was being held without bail. A telephone number listed for him in public records rang unanswered Monday afternoon.

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Follow Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

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