On December 2, as many as 100 people were at the Oakland warehouse for a concert and party when what authorities described as an "electrical fire" broke out just before midnight.
A probable cause statement filed Monday said Almena and Harris face 36 counts of felony involuntary manslaughter for allowing up to 25 people to illegally reside in the warehouse, for failing to provide fire suppression equipment and for filling the building with flammable materials, which created a deadly "labyrinth".
During the past six months, the investigating team conducted more than 75 individual interviews, 12 search warrants, and cataloged over 300 pieces of individual evidence, officials said Monday.
"We continue to mourn the loss of 36 young and vibrant men and women, 36 members of our community who should be with us today", O'Malley said of the December 2 blaze, which started at an electronic music party and ended up as the most deadly fire in the history of Oakland, and the worst in California and across the United States in more than a decade.
Sam Harris, a warehouse tenant has also been taken into custody, and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is expected to announce official filling of criminal charges later today.
"The reckless and deceptive actions of Derick Almena and Max Harris claimed 36 innocent lives", Schaaf said.
The two men were each being held on bail of almost $1.1 million. It's not known if Harris is represented by an attorney.
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Records show that the warehouse had been the subject of several visits from the police and fire departments over the years, though issues regarding the illegal housing or outdated wiring were never escalated after initial reports, despite those multiple reports.
The Ghost Ship had been home to a community of artists and regularly hosted concerts and parties.
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". He was arrested in Los Angeles County and will be transported to Alameda County to face the charges. Almena and Harris are also defendants in civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the fire victims.
Criminal defense attorney Dan Horowitz, who has been following the case, called the charges appropriate.
Alexander and other lawyers are suing Almena, Harris, Ng and others for wrongful death.
Almena rented the warehouse and ran it as an art collective and communal residence. He said he was one of the last to leave the building alive that night in early December.
Alemena, 46, was convicted of receiving stolen property in January, according to NBC Bay Area. "I want someone to tell me, 'I'm sorry.' It's not going to happen, but I want somebody to say, 'I'm sorry, Mrs. Vega that you lost your son'".
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