2 men charged in 36 deaths at Oakland artists' warehouse

Elias Hubbard
June 14, 2017

LAKEPORT Authorities have arrested Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena and warehouse tenant Max Harris on suspicion of 36 counts of manslaughter in conjunction with the deadly December 2 Ghost Ship fire that killed three dozen people, law enforcement sources said.

The fire was one of the deadliest structure fires in more than a decade. Most of the victims were attending a party on the second floor and were unable to escape down a makeshift staircase.

"Almena's and Harris' actions were reckless, creating a high risk of death", the district attorney office statement read.

The warehouse, which occupants had named the Ghost Ship, was one block from a fire station, and firefighters responded within three minutes of receiving the 911 call on the night of December 2.

Long before the fire killed 36 partygoers in Oakland's Fruitvale district late Friday night, Oakland officials had been fighting the owners of that building over hazardous or substandard conditions at their properties. He is accused of helping plan the December concert where the fire broke out.

Court documents show Almena was the primary tenant and rented space to as many as 25 people to live and work in the building licensed only as a warehouse.

The deadly inferno has opened the city up to rampant criticism, as public records revealed police and fire officials had been called to the building several times amid mounting evidence it had been converted into an illegal residence. Alameda County has also been named in the suit. He later said he didn't know people had died when he posted the comment.

Drenick said that because the building was largely consumed in the fire, the exact cause of the blaze is classified as undetermined and probably will remain that way.

CNN was attempting to reach an attorney for Harris.

The Ghost Ship - a DIY venue - operated inside a warehouse building that was reportedly used by artists as studios and living spaces.

Following the bad tragedy that took place at the Oakland DIY art space Ghost Ship, two arrests have been made on charges of 36 counts of manslaughter. Police reports also show he had an arrest in 2015 for an altercation over rent at the Ghost Ship.

Almena lived in the warehouse with his wife and three young children, who were staying the night in a nearby hotel the night of the fire.

The Ghost Ship's first floor was filled "floor to ceiling" with flammable "non-conventional building materials", such as "recycled dry wood, fence boards, shingles, window frames, wooden sculptures, tapestries, pianos, organs, wooden furniture, RV trailers, rugs, and other ramshackle pieces", according to the affidavit.

Almena told the TODAY Show back in December that he was "incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more lovely community and to bring people together".

"I just think they did it for greed", she said, "never expecting this to happen".

"We believe that these charges represent no less than a miscarriage of justice", Jeffrey Krasnoff, Kyndra Miller and Tony Serra, in a statement, reported the Chronicle.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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