OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Recently obtained police body cam video shows that Oakland authorities knew about violations at the Ghost Ship warehouse nearly two years before a fire during an illegal party killed 36 people.
The video obtained by the East Bay Times shows the OPD officer — later identified as Officer Hector Chavez — banging on the Ghost Ship warehouse rolling metal gate to stop an illegal rave.
The man, identified by the East Bay Times as music promoter Sean Griffith replies, “OK, understood. Well, we’re having a private event.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s almost two o’clock in the morning,” Chavez is heard to respond.
The interaction between Chavez and Griffith happened early on the morning of March 1st 2015.
Apparently someone flagged down the officer, saying there was a cover charge and that drugs and alcohol were being sold.
Neighbors also complained about the noise.
“I will report this to the city. I had a person telling me you guys are charging 25 bucks to get in,” Chavez is heard telling Griffith in the video. “So I’d imagine you don’t have a permit. So I will be talking to the city. And we’ll be dealing with the place.”
Officer Chavez wrote a police report detailing the encounter, but apparently building inspectors never received or saw the report.
The police union said the officer did his job. They believe it was the city’s responsibility to get that report to the right people.
“I’m going to talk to the owner of the place as well. I’ve been here a few times,” said Chavez.
The East Bay Times reports officers responded to this building and complex 35 times between mid-2014 and the December 2016 fire, investigating things like illegal dance parties, thefts, drug sales, allegations of rape and illegal housing.
The East Bay Times also reports other city and county agencies visited the building multiple times before the fire., but no one said anything to building inspectors or did anything to shut it down.
The defense attorneys representing master tenant Derick Almena and Max Harris, the man said to be second in charge at the Ghost Ship, told KPIX 5 this piece of evidence is game changer.
“We can point the finger at the government for not doing their job,” said Curtis Briggs, the defense attorney for Max Harris.
“They had a duty to report and follow up and they did not,” said Almenas attorney Tony Serra. “They dropped the ball.”
The Oakland Police Department and Oakland city officials did not respond to requests for comment.