Men charged in deaths at Oakland warehouse fire


Though still fresh in the memories of those living around the Bay Area city, the December "Ghost Ship" fire that caused 36 people to die of smoke inhalation was brought back to the public's attention Monday when two people were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their possible culpability in the event. A look inside the Oakland Ghost Ship collective warehouse Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena was arrested in Lake County this morning, while Max Harris was arrested in Los Angeles County.

The warehouse, which was zoned and permitted only as a warehouse, became a live-and-work space for many artists.

She wrote that Almena also began to sublet space inside the warehouse, allowing individuals to live inside the warehouse, and residents reported paying Almena between $350 to $1,400 a month for living space there.

According to the complaint filed by the district attorney, Almena and Harris created unsafe conditions at the warehouse space when they altered the interior of the building without proper permits, a violation of Oakland building and fire codes. "This is not profit, this is loss".

"I'm only here to say one thing: I'm incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more attractive community and to bring people together", he said.

Each man faces 39 years in prison, O'Malley added. Alameda County has also been named in the suit. O'Malley took no questions before leaving the news conference, leaving unanswered whether Almena and/or Harris could face other charges. She said the office has completed its investigation. When asked if the warehouse's owner, Chor Ng, would be charged, she declined to address what she called "speculation" of further charges. That's when a rave at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland turned into a deadly inferno.

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"We believe that these charges represent no less than a miscarriage of justice and we are confident that this attempt to make a scapegoat out of our client will fail", attorneys Kyndra Miller, J. Tony Serra and Jeffrey Krasnoff said in a joint statement.

Alex's longtime girlfriend, 20-year-old Michaela Gregory, also died in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

Drenick would not say whether more criminal charges will be filed.

Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, said the cause of the fire wasn't likely to be found "because of the nature of the fire and its consumption of almost all of the evidence".

Just two months before the deadly December blaze that took 36 lives, Harris emailed property managers Kai and Eva Ng about the increasing number of blackouts due to the "overexertion" on the electrical system and warned the Ngs of the "potential of devastating consequences should mishandling or lack of upkeep occur".

He lived in the Ghost Ship and was the person in charge at the time of the blaze because Almena had gone to a hotel with his family for the night.