Images blaming an artist’s collective founder for the deaths of 36 lives during Oakland’s deadliest blaze in history are cropping up on social media feeds, and fueling a frenzy of anger toward a man many said ignored safety hazards inside the Ghost Ship warehouse.
The words “Derick Ion is GUILTY” and then a tally of 36 hashmarks, one for each person killed inside the warehouse fire on Dec. 2, are scrawled on a brick wall in paint in a stark black-and-white image being posted on several Facebook pages.
Who took the photo, who wrote the words and where they were painted around Oakland was not immediately clear.
But the message certainly was.
Many people on local activist and musician Gina Madrid’s Facebook page, started talking about how they’d been trying for years to stop Almena who would come at them with “fists and guns.” His last name is Almena, but many refer to him as Derick Ion. Woods lists herself as a an artist, activist and director at Steelo Entertainment. Efforts to reach her on Tuesday were not immediately successful. She wrote on her post that she's seen the image in "several areas around Oakland." One woman on Twitter said that she saw the image painted on a building in West Oakland.
Others on her post said there are lots of people to blame, including those who stayed silent when they saw the electrical maze and unsafe hazards inside the warehouse. One woman wrote that people living inside the warehouse have a share of the responsibility, too, because they knew it wasn’t safe, and to blame one man for the tragedy just isn’t fair.
Almena gave an interview to the Today Show days after the fire, saying he was sorry for what happened, but excusing himself from responsibility for the deadly fire during an electronic dance party. He and his wife and three children had spent that night in a hotel.
He has not been arrested or charged with any crime, although the Alameda County District Attorney has launched a criminal investigation into the fire.
Still, he has a newly retained and high-profile San Francisco attorney, Tony Serra, who sent a statement to the media on Monday saying his client should “not be made a scapegoat” for the fire. Serra added that his own legal team conducted an investigation, which “shows that Derick Almena committed no conduct amounting to criminal negligence.”
Messages to some of the victims were also being painted across the Bay Area. RIP to Johnny Igaz, one of the 36, was found written in San Francisco at Taqueria El Farolito at 24th Streets
In Oakland and San Francisco, similar messages were written in memorial of Cash Askew, who was also killed in the fire.