GHOST SHIP TRIAL: Verdict reached against defendants in deadly Oakland warehouse fire
"It's a huge fireplace in here," remarked Oakland police officer Moises Palanco during a 2015 visit to the Ghost Ship. In bodycam footage obtained by the Bay Area News Group, the officers commented on exposed electrical wires and poorly built stairs.
The tragedy occurred on Dec. 2, 2016, but it was foretold way before.
PHOTOS: Full list of victims in Ghost Ship warehouse fire
Here is a timeline of how the investigation into the fire and the involuntary manslaughter trial of master tenant Derick Almena and his assistant Max Harris unfolded.
Dec. 2, 2016
A fire breaks out at 11:20 p.m. during a concert at the Ghost Ship warehouse, a building that housed artists but was not permitted for housing or entertainment use. The fire began in the first floor and trapped partygoers in the second floor. It took firefighters five hours to extinguish the blaze.
36 people died in the blaze, the deadliest fire in Oakland history.
Dec. 3, 2016
Scrutiny is placed on the Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena after a Facebook post in which he commented, "Everything I worked so hard for is gone," but did not mention the victims of the fire.
Dec. 4, 2016
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley launched a criminal investigation into the fire. Later that day, fire officials announce that they have recovered the bodies of 36 victims.
Dec. 5, 2016
ABC7 News tracked down Almena and asked for him to comment on the fire. He said, "They're my children. They're my friends. They are my family. They are my loves and my future. What else do I have to say?"
Dec. 7, 2016
City officials claim that building inspectors had not been inside the Ghost Ship warehouse in the past 30 years. Yet it was later revealed that weeks prior to the fire, an inspector for the Planning and Building Department went to the property after it received a complaint of debris. The inspector was not able to enter the building. The city issued a citation a few days later.
Dec. 23, 2016
The parents of two of the fire victims filed lawsuits against owner of the building, Chor Ng, the primary tenant and the event promoter.
Jan. 23, 2017
Lawyers for Almena claimed the fire originated in an adjacent building and that Almena was not responsible for the blaze.
Feb. 8, 2017
Documents released by the city of Oakland show that several city agencies, including the police department, visited the Ghost Ship warehouse 35 times in the months and years leading up to the deadly fire.
March 14, 2017
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed announced her retirement amid questions of inspection procedures and management following the Ghost Ship fire.
March 18, 2017
Oakland City Attorney's Office is criticized for not sharing a critical report prepared by the fire department about the fire with the Alameda County District Attorney's office.
March 24, 2017
The East Bay Times reports that the son of the building owner knew about electrical problems at the Ghost Ship two years prior to the fire.
June 5, 2017
Almena and Harris were arrested and charged with felony involuntary manslaughter. The owner of the building was not charged. Almena makes his first court appearance in Lake County.
June 19, 2017
A report issued by the Bureay of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Alameda County Arson Task Force and the Oakland Fire Department did not determine the cause for the deadly blaze due to extreme fire damage. The investigation concluded that the fire began in the northwest area of the ground floor. It also found that all 35 victims died of smoke inhalation.
Dec. 6, 2017
A preliminary hearing began to determine if Almena and Harris could stand trial. On December 14, a judge ruled that a trial can move forward.
April 29, 2018
Oakland police bodycam video obtained by Bay Area News Group reveals that officers went inside the Ghost Ship a year before the fire and commented about the fire danger in the building and unsafe construction.
July 3, 2018
Prosecutors reach a plea deal. Almena and Harris agree to plead no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Almena would receive 9 years in prison and Harris 6 years. Family members of the victims are upset about the plea deal.
Aug. 10, 2018
The judge overseeing the case discarded the plea deal stating that Almena and Harris did not accept "full responsibility and remorse" for the fire. A trial moves forward.
Aug. 13, 2018
In an exclude jailhouse interview with ABC7 News, Almena said he was stunned when a judge dismissed the plea deal that would have resulted in a nine year jail sentence for him.
Aug. 15, 2018
Max Harris' attorney announces he will file a motion to sever his client's case from Derick Almena's case after the judge denied the plea agreement because Almena did not show enough remorse.
Sept. 7, 2018
The judge sets a trial date.
Dec. 11, 2018
Attorneys for the defendants in the Ghost Ship fire case have filed a citizen's arrest for the owners of the Oakland warehouse and city officials who visited the building prior to the fire.
April 30, 2019
An emotional start to the trial as prosecutors read the names of all 36 people who died in the fire during opening statements and then showed some of the text messages some of the victims sent to family members before they died.
June 17, 2019
Max Harris took the stand and tried to minimize his role in the operations of the Ghost Ship but was later contradicted about his role by prosecutors.
July 8, 2019
Almena testified in his defense. He admits that all the electrical, plumbing and carpentry work was done without permits.
July 16, 2019
July 29, 2019
Closing arguments began.
July 31, 2019
Sept. 5, 2019
The jury in the Ghost Ship trial acquitted defendant Max Harris on all 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The judge declared a mistrial for Derick Almena after the jury was deadlocked 10-2.
Oct. 4, 2019
Derick Almena's request for a bail reduction was denied in an Oakland courtroom on Friday. He will stay in jail until his next trial.
May 4, 2020
Derick Almena was released on bail amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Take a look at full coverage on the deadly fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland.