Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In 'Ghost Ship' Fire
- Author: Larry Hoffman Jun 09, 2017,
Jun 09, 2017, 16:21
The fire at the large warehouse, dubbed the Ghost Ship, killed 36 people on December 2.
Family members of victims said Monday they want those responsible to face consequences even if it won't bring full closure. Almena and Max Harris, another man who organized the event, were each charged Monday with three dozen counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The warehouse-which county officials say had not been inspected in 30 years-has been described as a dilapidated structure filled with tapestries, furniture and flammable artworks.
Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick did not provide information about Harris, but a probable cause document said he lived at the warehouse and was a creative director, collecting rent and acting as an intermediary between Almena and warehouse owners.
"Habitability" complaints had been made about the building to owner of the entire warehouse space - not Almena, who only owns the loft - with one complaint filed in the month before the fire, according to the East Bay Express. Harris was the doorman on the night of December 2nd, when a fire broke out inside the Ghost Ship and trapped numerous attendees.
"The property owner could have been charged but the jury may have hung on that defendant and it would've put a cloud over a very good case against the other defendants so it was a judgment call", Horowitz said. They will be arraigned back in Alameda County, Drenick said. Her daughter, Eva Ng, 36, has said the building was leased as a studio space for the art collective and was not used as residences.
"When asked if he should be held accountable for the disaster, Almena - who has been accused of failing to correct unsafe conditions - said, 'What am I going to say to that?".
Because the December 2 fire consumed most of the evidence, the specific cause will likely remain undetermined, prosecutors said, although they maintained it would not affect their ability to bring the case. He lived in the Ghost Ship with his girlfriend, Micah Allison, and their three children.
A habitability investigation of the warehouse was still pending at the time of the fire, records show.
More details to come.
Nancy O'Malley, the Alameda County district attorney said Almena had rented out the warehouse to artists to live and work.
The body cam footage, which was taken by police who were investigating a nearby fire, shows Almena talking to officers about the goal of his new "collective" and bragging about all the "antiques" he has inside, according to The Mercury News. "I just heard pounding on what I thought on the wall and I heard open up and just like shouting", one neighbor said.
Eric Bateman, who performed in the band Easystreet with both Chelsea Faith and Travis Hough - who also died in the fire - said he has "very complicated feelings" about the charges.
Officials have said that the fire that engulfed the warehouse was already raging on the ground floor before victim on the floor above realized anything was wrong.
Approximately 100 people attended the event, which featured a performance from Madison, Wisconsin-based electronic act Golden Donna.