Families of Victims Pack Court to See Man Charged in Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire

By | June 9, 2017

Families of some of the dozens of people who were killed in an Oakland warehouse fire attended a court hearing for a man charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the fire.

Victims lined up to see suspect Derick Almena during his five-minute appearance on Thursday.

Almena, 47, had been expected to enter a plea in Alameda County Superior Court, but his attorney asked for his arraignment to be rescheduled.

Almena was ordered back to court June 15 when his co-defendant in the case is expected to make his first appearance before a judge.

Almena and Max Harris, 27, were arrested Monday after a six-month investigation of the Dec. 2 fire that occurred during an unpermitted electronic music concert at the building known as the Ghost Ship.

This 2014 photo provided by Ajesh Shah shows the interior of a portion of the ‘Ghost Ship’ warehouse. Dozens of people died at a party after a fire that started Dec. 2, 2016, and swept through the building. (Ajesh Shah via AP)

As part of the involuntary manslaughter counts, they are accused of illegally converting the warehouse into living and party space.

Almena leased the building and Harris helped him sublet space to tenants and promoters, even though the warehouse was not licensed for housing or entertainment, prosecutors said.

They said the site was cluttered with highly flammable material and the suspects failed to provide adequate fire safety systems.

Almena’s attorney Jeffrey Krasnoff said he is being used as a scapegoat in the case and plans to fight the charges.

Almena’s arrest “doesn’t help the public good” and distracts from the San Francisco Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis, the lawyer said.

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