OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Attorneys for Ghost Ship warehouse master tenant Derick Almena and Max Harris filed a request Tuesday that the building’s owners and Oakland firefighters and police officers be arrested and prosecuted along with Almena and Harris.
Almena, 48, and Harris, 28, are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire during a music party at the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave. in Oakland’s Fruitvale district on Dec. 2, 2016, that killed 36 people.
Their trial, which is expected to be lengthy, is scheduled to start on April 2 with a series of hearings on evidentiary motions and jury selection.
The request filed by attorneys for Almena and Harris asks authorities to arrest warehouse owner and landlord Chor Ng, who is said to have fled to China, and her son Kai Ng and daughter Eva Ng, who they say were managers and landlords at the building.
It also asks authorities to arrest five Oakland firefighters, a paramedic and three Oakland police officers, alleging that they visited the warehouse but didn’t do enough to address the problems they saw at the building, where Almena, Harris and a large group of artists, musicians and other creative people lived.
The request says Oakland agencies were “well aware of the that the premises did not provide for occupancy and were well aware of the number of people and overall conditions of the Ghost Ship, including safety hazards, code violations and fire dangers.”
It alleges, “The city officials failed to respond properly and this failure to act, ignoring the telltale signs of danger when it was their duty to recognize such, led to the deaths of the 36 individuals.”
Almena’s lawyer Tony Serra said the request is addressed to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in the county, including the District Attorney’s Office.
“I don’t expect them to heed this request, I expect them to scoff at it,” Serra said.
He said if law enforcement officials don’t act on the request within the next week, he will ask a judge to issue an order that the people on the defense’s list be arrested.
Serra said a private person may arrest another person when a felony has been committed and the person has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested has committed that crime.
“This practice has been utilized over and over again,” he said.
District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said her office has no comment on the request by the lawyers for Almena and Harris.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said, “Mr. Serra should know that the Alameda County District Attorney is the primary investigator in this case. If he has relevant information for the arrest of individuals, he should contact their inspectors bureau.”
Prosecutors allege that guests and residents at the warehouse were endangered by its makeshift electrical system and floor-to-ceiling load of pianos, wooden sculptures, pallets, motor campers, rugs, benches, tree limbs and tapestries.
They also say the warehouse had no city permits for residency or for the concerts and shows that were held there and allege that Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape.
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