OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Derick Almena, the man who leased the Ghost Ship warehouse, where the deadly Oakland fire occurred, spoke to the Today Show on Tuesday morning in an exclusive interview.
When asked if he should be held accountable for the lives lost in the fire Almena responded, "Am I the man who should be held accountable? Did I build something that was... I mean what am I going to say to that? Should I be held accountable? I can barely stand here right now."
When asked about dangerous conditions in the warehouse Almena responded about living there with his family and making music. "We created art. We opened our home. It became our home. It didn't start off as our home. It started off as an initial dream an idea that we would have a facility and a venue that would host everything from at-risk youth to the gay community to artists that couldn't perform anywhere to performance art and alternative arts and eventually when you can't pay your rent because your dream is bigger than your pocketbook. When the need for housing. When the need for people to be able to sit down and be warm and make food and take a shower and take a bath and go to bed - so we created something together."
Although the city claims the building was not to code, Almena claimed in this intereview with The Today Show that when he signed the lease the buidling "was to city standards supposedly."
When asked about a former resident's claim that Almena knew the space was dangerous - profited from renting out the building - and only spent money on partying. He said, "I don't want to talk about me. I don't want to talk about profiting. This is profit? The loss of mass lives... this is not profit - this is loss - a mass grave."
Almena said, "I'm only here to say one thing. That I'm incredibly sorry. And everything I did was to make this a stronger, more beautiful community. And to bring people together. People didn't walk through those doors because it was a horrible place."
In the report, he said the night the fire occurred he had a hotel room with his family because he wanted his kids to have a good night sleep. "And I wanted to young people to do what they needed to do."
Almena was angry during the interview saying, "I'm not going to answer these questions the way you're presenting them... I would rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents. I'd rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions. I am so sorry. I'm incredibly sorry. What do you want me to say? I'm not going to answer these questions."
The Today Show ended up cutting the interview short.