2 charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for Oakland's Ghost Ship fire

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
2 men charged with involuntary manslaughter for Oakland's Ghost Ship fire
Alameda County prosecutors filed involuntary manslaughter charges 185 days after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Alameda County prosecutors filed involuntary manslaughter charges 185 days after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. The operator of the warehouse and its creative director are both arrested.

The Alameda County Sheriff's office took little time with Almena, who was booked into the Santa Rita jail the night he was arrested, facing 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Friends and families of the 36 people who died say the pain is still present.

In filing criminal charges against Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena and Max Harris, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said the two men created a fire, one any reasonable person should've known was potentially deadly.

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Oakland's Ghost Ship founder appears in court

"The paying guests at that event faced an impossible labyrinth, of the defendant's making, to get out of that building. Almena and Harris' actions were reckless and they created the high risk of death," O'Malley said.

Almena was arrested in Lake County while Harris was picked up in the Los Angeles area.

PHOTOS: A look inside the Oakland Ghost Ship collective warehouse

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This photo of the Ghost Ship art collective warehouse in Oakland, Calif. was posted on its website.
Photo by www.OaklandGhostShip.com

Almena's defense attorneys released the following statement: "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."

The criminal complaint alleges Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap at the Ghost Ship, including packing it with flammable materials, rewiring the electrical system and deliberately blocking one of only two exits during a concert the night of the fire.

RELATED: I-Team investigates background of Ghost Ship founder

"I applaud the charges filed today by District Attorney Nancy O'Malley because they send a clear message: you won't get away with making a profit by cramming people into dangerous spaces or failing to maintain safe living conditions," Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

Attorney Mary Alexander represents 11 of the families who lost loved ones in the Ghost Ship. "The families are seeking justice and they are very pleased that criminal charges have been filed against two of the people who are the cause of the fire," she said.

If convicted on all charges, Almena and Harris face up to 39 years in prison.

RELATED: All 36 victims in Ghost Ship warehouse fire identified

Click here for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire.

A source tells ABC7 News that two arrests have been made in connection with last year's deadly Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.