Men charged in deaths at Oakland warehouse fire

Men charged in deaths at Oakland warehouse fire

California police have arrested the owner of an Oakland artist's loft where 36 partygoers died a year ago in a deadly fire during a rave, PEOPLE confirms. The criminal complaint filed alleges the Almena created a "dangerous condition" and "firetrap" that cost 36 people their lives. The LA Times reported that Almena advertised the warehouse on Craigslist as a "hybrid museum, sunken pirate ship, shingled funhouse, and guerrilla gallery". Several said Almena brushed them off when they voiced concerns.

Almena quickly became the focal point of widespread anger and criticism after the fire.

In March, Almena's wife, Micah Allison, reached out to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit via Facebook and text message to talk about the struggle her family, including her three children, faced after the fire.

"Everything I worked for is gone", he wrote.

DA O'Malley told reporters Almena and Harris "knowingly created a fire trap".

Days after the tragedy, Almena apologized for the horrific fire during a freaky interview on Today, though he flinched when asked if he should be held accountable. He was asked about charging for concerts and subleasing space.

"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 lovely community and to bring people together", Almena said on "Today".

According to The Mercury News, DA investigator Cristina Harbison wrote in court documents that Almena was repeatedly warned about the unsafe situation he was creating, as he filled the warehouse with flammable materials and rented it out to sub-tenants.

He was booked into the Lake County Jail shortly before 1 p.m. Monday and is being held on $1.8 million bail. If convicted of all counts, the men face 39 years in state prison.

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Stanford Law professor Robert Weisberg says O'Malley could have even sought second-degree murder, but that these charges against Almena and Harris were "inevitable".

It's unknown if Harris is represented by a lawyer.

At least 10 complaints had been recorded at the site, which included an adjoining vacant lot, since the family of Chor Nar Siu Ng began to purchase the properties in 1997, according to Oakland and Alameda County records. On the night of the fire, "one of two exits to get away from the fire had been blocked". Ng has not commented publicly about the fire.

"I kind of think it's gotten harder, because we're going through a first everything without him", she said.

"We continue to mourn the loss of the 36 young vibrant men and women. who should be with us today", the prosecutor said.

"There is more responsibility to go around", Boudreaux said.

The exact cause of the fire, as Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick said at Monday's press conference, is expected to remain as "undetermined" due to the incineration of most of the evidence, however investigators have pointed to electrical wires that were bringing power into the building from an adjacent building, where a small transformer caught fire in a crawl space about one year prior.

On Monday, she laid the blame on Derick Almena, the leaseholder and building operator, and Max Harris, a long-time tenant who is accused of renting space to a promoter for an unpermitted concert on the night of the fire. Harris described himself as a "senior member" of the warehouse space who acted as an event coordinator. Thirty-six people died in the fire in December, making it the nation's deadliest structure fire in more than a decade.

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