Suspects in Deadly California Warehouse Fire Plead Not Guilty

Two men have pleaded not guilty in connection with a fire that killed 36 people in an illegally converted Northern California warehouse.

Derick Almena and Max Harris entered pleas Wednesday to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter each.

Prosecutors say the two men turned the Oakland warehouse into a deathtrap when they turned it into a housing and entertainment venue.

The 47-year-old Almena leased the warehouse, and prosecutors say 27-year-old Harris helped rent living space and organize for-profit concerts.

This 2014 photo provided by Ajesh Shah shows the interior of a portion of the ‘Ghost Ship’ warehouse. Dozens of people have died at a party after a fire that started late Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, and swept through the building. (Ajesh Shah via AP)

Both men lived in the warehouse along with several other tenants when a fire engulfed the structure in December during a musical performance that dozens attended.

The suspects’ lawyers say the responsibility for the fire should be determined with lawsuits in civil court rather than with criminal charges.

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  • Oakland Fire Captain Recommended Building Be Shut Down in January
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