December's Oakland warehouse fire has now resulted in the arrests Monday of the so-called Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena and second-in-command Max Harris.
The fire at the large warehouse, dubbed the Ghost Ship, killed 36 people on Dec. 2. Almena, 47, and Harris, 27, have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fire, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Prosecutors claim that they amassed flammable materials through the warehouse, created an illegal party area, and even blocked one of the two exits from the second floor on Dec. 2, wrote the Mercury News.
"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," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley said in a statement. "Defendants Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, filled it with human beings, and are now facing the consequences of their deadly actions.
"My office launched this criminal investigation within hours of the fire, and we have worked steadily for the past six months to ensure that those responsible for these deaths are brought to justice," she continued.
O'Malley charged in her statement that Almena and Harris allowed individuals to live in the warehouse and deceived the police, fire department and owners about it, conducted unpermitted and uninspected construction, including electrical work, and created a deadly and dangerous space.
"Almena's and Harris' actions were reckless, creating a high risk of death," the district attorney office statement read. "A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such risk.
"Their actions were so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that their actions amounted to a disregard for human life. Their reckless actions were the proximate cause of the death of the 36 individuals trapped inside the warehouse when the fire started," the statement continued.
Almena's attorneys told the San Francisco Chronicle that they would "vigorously defend" their client.
"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. "We are confident that this attempt to make a scapegoat of our client will fail."
In a national interview on the "Today" show shortly after the fire, Almena said that he was sorry but refused to say if he was responsible for it.
"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 beautiful community and to bring people together," Almena said on "Today." "People didn’t walk through those doors because it was a horrible place. People didn’t seek us out to perform and express themselves because it was a horrible place."
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