Ghost Ship Tenants 'Knowingly Created a Fire Trap,' Arrested for Involuntary Manslaughter

memorial in oakland california
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Candles, photos and flowers are placed at a makeshift memorial near the site of a warehouse fire on Dec. 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif.

Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley explains the charges at a press conference.

Following reports earlier Monday (June 5) that both Derick Almena and Max Harris -- co-tenants of the Ghost Ship art space in Oakland, California, where 36 people perished in a calamitous fire earlier this year -- had been arrested, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley held a press conference, where she addressed the charges against the defendants.

"Today my office has filed felony critical complaints against Derick Almena and Max Harris in connection with the deadly warehouse fire," O'Malley said. “Both Almena and Harris are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter… the exposure for all of those counts equals 39 years.” O'Malley mentioned that both Almena and Harris were taken into custody "without incident."

From their recent investigation into the Ghost Ship fire, O'Malley said her department have concluded that the two defendants had "knowingly created a fire trap, with inadequate means of escape. They then filled that area with human beings, and are now facing the consequences of their actions."

She also detailed the ways in which the pair had acted "knowingly and with disregard for the risk" in their venue's fire safety, including how they "allowed individuals to live in the warehouse -- and deceived the police, the fire department and the owners of the building to that fact," and how they "allowed large groups to assemble in the warehouse for unpermitted and unsafe musical events in the space… and actually blocked one of the points of egress [on the night of the fire], to leave only one way to get out of the second floor of that building.”

"The building had no fire suppression, nor did it have lighted pathways to get out," she continued. "They also conducted unpermitted and uninspected construction within the building, including electrical work. And very purposefully, they allowed floor-to-ceiling storage of large quantities of highly flammable materials, that created a deadly and dangerous space."

Addressing the effect the incident may have on the Bay Area's arts community, O'Malley offered, “I wholeheartedly support our arts community, both in my belief that they are a vital and vibrant part of what makes Oakland great -- but every single one of those individuals deserves to live and work in a space that is safe.” 

“We will continue to work diligently to ensure that justice is served," the DA concluded.


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