OAKLAND — An Oakland police officer who threatened to call the city as he shut down an illegal rave at the Ghost Ship warehouse in 2015 filed a report and notified other departments within OPD in accordance with department policy, a police spokeswoman said.
As first reported by this news agency Thursday morning, Officer Hector Chavez responded to the Fruitvale district building in March 2015 on a report of excessive noise and sale of drugs. After knocking on the door, the beat officer stood inside the doorway of the warehouse and told a party promoter and attendees, “I will be talking to the city, and we’ll be dealing with this place,” according to body camera footage obtained by the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday.
In a statement issued Thursday, the police department said Chavez’s police report was entered into a database and sent to the department’s vice unit. Next, it was forwarded to the Alcohol Beverage Action Team, where it has sat pending for more than two years, the department said.
“The officer was in compliance and followed proper report-writing and referral protocol,” the statement read. “At the time, reports noting a potentially (or alleged) unlicensed cabaret were viewed as low-priority infractions.”
The officer threatened to notify the city about the Ghost Ship, but Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson, who sent the statement, did not indicate whether the police report was referred to any city hall departments beyond the police department.
After a fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in December killed 36 people attending a dance party, the deadliest fire in the state’s history, the department issued an order requiring officers to report unlicensed cabarets and unpermitted special events to their Special Event Unit and their supervisors.
On Feb. 14, the Bay Area News Group requested nine videos from police interactions with Ghost Ship be released. In May, the department released the first footage from officers responding to a September 2014 arson at the 31st Avenue artist space. After months of emails with reporters and BANG’s attorney, the city later released videos of one Ghost Ship encounter in August in which officers respond to a misdemeanor assault in October 2015.
In addition to the illegal rave video released Wednesday, this newspaper also obtained footage of a December 2014 police call to the Ghost Ship after master tenant Derick Almena had a fight with another tenant. During that call one officer briefly goes inside to retrieve a milkshake for Almena, who asked for it while being held by police. The 2015 misdemeanor assault call also involved Almena. During both visits he told police that no one lived at the warehouse. The building was not zoned residential so by law no one was allowed to live there.
Almena and tenant Max Harris have each been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deadly Dec. 2 fire.
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