Two Arrested On 36 Charges Of Involuntary Manslaughter

Frederick Owens
June 12, 2017

Prosecutors haven't charged the owner of a warehouse where 36 people died in a deadly December fire in Oakland.

File - In this December 3, 2016 file image from video provided by KGO-TV shows the Ghost Ship Warehouse after a fire swept through the Oakland, Calif., building.

Moreover, a Los Angeles Times report also mentioned "Oakland officials have repeatedly denied that fire and building officials were aware of the danger" although public records released February showed at least 10 complaints registered regarding the warehouse.

A statement describing the conditions of Ghost Ship, a warehouse Almena used to rent space to artists and organizers, says it was cluttered with flammable materials from "floor to ceiling", including "carvings, mannequins, paintings, artwork, scraps of wood, pianos", but lacked fire suppression equipment.

If convicted, both Derick Almena and Max Harris may face up to 39 years in jail. Almena, who lived in the warehouse, plans to fight the charges, with his lawyer saying Monday "we are confident that this attempt to make a scapegoat out of our client will fail". Those records show the Ng family, who own the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse and at least a dozen other properties across the Bay Area, failed to clean up unsafe or shoddy conditions at properties over a period of more than 15 years despite code violations and complaints from neighbors.

O'Malley will announce the charges at 1 the Alameda County Courthouse.

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Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse founder Derick Almena and his associate Max Harris have been arrested on involuntary manslaughter charges connected to the deadly fire in Oakland, the Alameda County DA said on Monday. Almena was an operator of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, in which dozens of people died in a fire that started December 2, 2016.

Almena allowed Harris to live there, calling him the "creative director", who was in charge of collecting rent, mediating disputes and dealing with the building owner.

Drenick would not say whether more criminal charges will be filed. He later said he didn't know people had died.

Schaaf on Monday said the charges against Almena and Harris "send a clear message: You won't get away with making a profit by cramming people into risky spaces or failing to maintain safe living conditions".

But prosecutors said what they actually created was a deathtrap. "Residents reported that if they put anything in their individual living spaces that did not conform to Almena's idea as to how the warehouse should look, he would order it to be removed". "Witnesses state they warned Almena numerous times about the obvious fire hazard in the warehouse". Relatives have said the two, who worked the nightshift at Duggan's Serra Mortuary in Daly City, had been dating for five years.

Almena lied to law enforcement officers, "insisting that no one lived in the warehouse", according to Cristina Harbison, an inspector in the District Attorney's office and author of the document. Ng has not commented publicly about the fire.

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