“I am repulsed by this plea agreement. You do not take responsibility for your actions. I am angry with this court in that it is a legal system, not a justice system”
Back in December of 2016, a building in Oakland, California burned in a massive fire. The warehouse building had been taken over by a collective of artists and musicians, some of whom were living in the building illegally.
Now the main leaseholder, who has been held responsible for the blaze, has been sentenced to spend the remainder of his 12 year sentence in home confinement. Families of the victims are outraged.
The building has been described as a tinderbox just waiting to happen.
With 36 victims, the fire has the distinction of being the worst in Oakland’s history.
Back in 2016, my colleague Leslie Eastman described what happened:
Death Toll Climbs to 36 in Oakland’s “Ghost Ship” Fire
Investigators are working to determine the cause of a massive warehouse fire that claimed the lives of over 30 young adults who were attending a party. The facility housed a community of artisans in Oakland, California.
The warehouse where at least 36 people died in a massive fire Friday night has been deemed too unsafe and unstable for emergency workers, prompting fire officials to temporarily halt search efforts that have now stretched into a fourth day.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said a criminal investigation team is involved, which means the site of the warehouse fire is a potential crime scene.
Melinda Drayton, battalion chief for the Oakland Fire Department, said at a news conference Monday morning that crews stopped searching overnight after noticing that a wall at the back of the building was leaning at an alarming angle. The search was halted just after midnight, Drayton said, adding that once it resumes, “we absolutely believe that the number of fatalities will increase.”
Officials now believe that the deadly fire started at the back of the warehouse. But Drayton said Monday that significant investigative work is still ahead. “We are no closer to finding a cause,” she said.
The leaseholder made a deal with prosecutors. Family members were able to make statements at the sentencing hearing this week.
ABC 7 in California reports:
Emotional statements from Ghost Ship victims’ families as judge sentences warehouse founder Derick Almena
Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena was dropped off in front of an Oakland courthouse Monday to learn his fate for his role in the disastrous warehouse fire that killed 36 people.
Once inside, Almena faced dozens of family members, appearing by Zoom, delivering emotional impact statements to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson and to Almena himself.
Colleen Dolan, mother of Chelsea Dolan said to Almena:
“It would have taken so little for you to give up just a pinch of your hipster ego for the sake of others,” said Dolan. Your swaggering ego killed 36 people.”
Like most of the victims, Chelsea Dolan was trapped on the second floor of the warehouse, a cluttered and unlicensed venue for a music concert that ended in a deadly fire in December 2016.
“I curse you with the pain in your bones and your muscles that comes from clenching in fear as you face the fury of a firestorm coming to consume you,” Colleen Dolan told Almena. “I do not forgive you. I never will.”…
Almena accepted a deal in January, pleading guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. He has been on house arrest since May, released due to the pandemic.
Several family members urged Judge Thompson to throw out the deal.
“I am repulsed by this plea agreement. You do not take responsibility for your actions. I am angry with this court in that it is a legal system, not a justice system,” said victim Donna Kellogg’s stepfather Keith Slocum.
“I miss him so much. I am not satisfied with this plea deal,” said Michelle Worthington, sister of victim Joey Matlock. “How is this justice?”
This tweet includes a photo of the inside of the building before the fire:
— CNN (@CNN) December 26, 2016
This is what it looked like afterwards:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 30, 2018
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