Oakland Warehouse Manager Derick Ion Almena Speaks Out as Fire Death Toll Grows

Derick Ion Almena is currently on probation for a misdemeanor receiving of stolen property

The manager of the Oakland warehouse that caught on fire, killing at least 36 people over the weekend, spoke briefly to reporters on Sunday amid reports that the space was the subject of numerous safety complaints.

Derick Ion Almena told KGO at the Oakland Marriott City Center on Sunday night in a message to the victims, “They’re my children. They’re my friends, they’re my family, they’re my loves, they’re my future. What else do I have to say?” Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern said Monday that no more bodies are likely to be pulled from the rubble.

The 46-year-old has been scrutinized in the days since the fire as it’s been revealed that he and wife Micah Allison ran the organization — the Satya Yuga Collective — that operated the so-called Ghost Ship venue. According to records obtained by NBC Bay Area, the building was under investigation by the Oakland Planning and Building Department for habitability and illegal residential occupancy. Further, Almena reportedly failed to request a special permit for the rave being hosted at the building on Friday night, according to KGO.

The building itself was actually owned by a trust set by Chor N. Ng — not Almena — NBC Bay Area reported.

Oakland Warehouse Party Fire

Former employees of Almena — who resided with Allison and their children (ages 13, 7 and 6, according to the New York Times) on the warehouse’s second floor — told KGO that he allegedly laughed off warnings about the building’s hazards from fire and police officials.

Danielle Boudreaux, who told the San Francisco Chronicle that she knew Almena for years, said that “the police and Fire Department were there on more than one occasion. Multiple people warned Derick that it was a death trap. He would laugh it off. This tragedy could have been avoided if it were not for his arrogance.”

Numerous outlets reported that Almena initially responded to the fire in a since-deleted Facebook post, writing, “Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound… it’s as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope… to be standing now in poverty of self worth.”

RELATED VIDEO: At Least 36 Dead In Oakland Warehouse Party Fire

After facing backlash, Almena further said in a written statement to NBC News, “In my previous Facebook post, I had no idea there was loss of life. This tragic event consumes my every moment. My heart is broken. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones.”

In an interview with NBC Nightly News, that aired Monday night, Almena tells correspondent Miguel Almaguer, “I can’t explain who I am anymore.” Allison, who also appeared in the interview, tearfully revealed, “We’ve done everything that we possibly could afford to do.”

Almena has previously dealt with personal legal problems. In Jan. 2015, he was charged with a felony of receiving stolen property, according to online court records. After reaching a deal, Alemna plead no contest to a misdemeanor and spent two days in jail. He was sentenced to 36 months probation, which started on Jan. 25, 2016.

Both the New York Times and the East Bay Express also reported that Almena and Allison’s children were allegedly removed from their custody by the Alameda County Social Services Agency in March 2015 after relatives expressed concern for their safety. They were reportedly returned to their parents in June of this year. The agency did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

On Sunday, authorities confirmed they have launched a criminal investigation into the fire. The Oakland Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests from comment as to whether Almena will be or has been interviewed in connection to the investigation.

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