A man who lived at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland broke down in tears on Monday as he testified about unsuccessfully trying to save the life of another resident in the fire at the warehouse in 2016 that killed 36 people.
Robert “Bob” Mule, who works as a “grip” technician in the filmmaking industry, said he noticed smoke at the building at 1309 31st Ave. late on the night of Dec. 2, 2016, after fellow resident Aaron Marin said he smelled smoke.
Mule said he then saw flames and ran to the front of the building and screamed, “Fire!” and “Fire extinguishers.”
Mule said he saw another resident, Peter Wadsworth, who was 38, lying on the ground and started to try to drag him but had to give up because Wadsworth weighed more than he did.
Mule paused and quietly sobbed as he testified about Wadsworth, who was the only Ghost Ship resident who died in the fire. The other 35 victims who died had come to the warehouse to attend a music party that night.
The testimony is in the trial of Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena, 49, and creative director Max Harris, 29, who are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deadly fire.
Alameda County prosecutor Casey Bates alleged in his opening statement two weeks ago that Almena and Harris are criminally liable for the fire because there was no time and no way for the people at the party to escape since the warehouse didn’t have important safeguards, such as fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and exit signs.
Bates also said Almena and Harris violated the terms of the warehouse’s lease by turning it into a living space and hosting underground music parties there.
But defense attorneys for Almena and Harris alleged in their opening statements that the fire was an act of arson that Harris and Almena couldn’t have prevented.
They said witnesses saw strange people who didn’t belong inside the warehouse and later saw seven to 10 Latino males walk by the building while it was burning and heard one of them say, “The way we put that wood in there, they’ll never come out.”
Mule supported the defense’s theory to a degree by testifying that shortly before the fire, he saw two men he didn’t know in an area of the warehouse where there weren’t supposed to be visitors.
But he said the men appeared to be white, not Latino.
At the beginning of Monday’s session, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said that late Thursday afternoon she dismissed an alternate juror for what she described as “veracity” issues. It was the second juror Thompson has removed so far. On the second day of opening statements on May 1, she also removed a juror. The two dismissals mean that the case is left with 12 jurors and four alternates. Thompson also said Monday that there’s a potential issue with another juror, which she and the attorneys in the case will discuss “at the appropriate time.”
Thompson said late Wednesday that she is considering sequestering the jury or even closing the trial to the media and the public because of ongoing issues with jurors.