2 charged in deadly Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36
2 charged in deadly Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36
What the Ghost Ship space looked like before the fire
08 June, 2017, 00:49
O'Malley today announced that her office has filed felony criminal charges against Derick Ion Almena and Max Harris in connection with the deadly warehouse fire on December 2, 2016, which took the lives of 36 men and women.
"We continue to mourn the loss of 36 young and vibrant men and women, 36 members of our community who should be with us today", O'Malley said of the December 2 blaze, which started at an electronic music party and ended up as the most deadly fire in the history of Oakland, and the worst in California and across the United States in more than a decade.
The probable cause document said Almena "allowed and encouraged tenants to use nonconventional building materials that he collected to create their living spaces".
A city building inspector who visited the address just prior to the fire was unable to gain access to the warehouse, officials say.
The building also had no fire supression measures and no lighted pathways to the exits, O'Malley said, calling the suspects' actions "reckless".
On Monday, she laid the blame on Derick Almena, the leaseholder and building operator, and Max Harris, a long-time tenant who is accused of renting space to a promoter for an unpermitted concert on the night of the fire.
Almena's attorneys Jeffrey Krasnoff, Kyndra Miller and J. Tony Serra did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. He had told the East Bay Times that he was the "second in command" at the collective and had been working the door the night of the fire.
"The owner of the space from what I know leased out the space as a place where we would host events and do dance classes and workshops and concerts and music", he said.
Almena and Harris had been allowing up to 25 people live in the space illegally, which did not include any fire prevention equipment and was outright risky for any individual in the case of an emergency. They moved to Lake County just a few months ago - 140 miles from the scene of the Ghost Ship tragedy.
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Jennifer Mendiola, a student earning her PhD in psychology at UC Merced, was among those who died December 2, 2016 in the fire which raged through the Ghost Ship live/work artist's collective warehouse in east Oakland.
As of Monday afternoon there is no specific date and time for Almena and Harris' arraignment.
Days after the tragedy, Almena apologized for the horrific fire during a freaky interview on Today, though he flinched when asked if he should be held accountable.
Prosecutors say the two men deceived Ng along with police and fire officials about people living illegally at the warehouse.
Authorities say that because almost all of the evidence was destroyed by the flames, the precise cause of the fire may never be determined.
"I'm only here to say one thing: that I am incredibly sorry", he told NBC's "Today".
What the Ghost Ship space looked like before the fire.
Harris, interviewed two days after the fire, had attributed the blaze to an electrical system that he described as being in disarray.
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