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Video shows cops visiting Ghost Ship warehouse before deadly fire

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Recently obtained body cam video shows that Oakland police knew about violations at the Ghost Ship warehouse nearly two years before a fire erupted during an illegal party, CBS San Francisco reports

The video obtained by the East Bay Times shows the Oakland police officer — who was later identified as Hector Chavez — banging on the Ghost Ship warehouse rolling metal gate to stop an illegal rave.

The man — who was identified by the East Bay Times as music promoter Sean Griffith — replies, "OK, understood. Well, we're having a private event."

"It doesn't matter. It's almost two o'clock in the morning," Chavez says.

The interaction between Chavez and Griffith happened early on the morning of March 1, 2015.

Apparently someone flagged down the officer, saying there was a cover charge and that drugs and alcohol were being sold at the warehouse. Neighbors also complained about the noise.

"I will report this to the city. I had a person telling me you guys are charging 25 bucks to get in," Chavez tells Griffith in the video. "So, I'd imagine you don't have a permit. So I will be talking to the city. And we'll be dealing with the place."

Officer Chavez wrote a police report detailing the encounter, but apparently building inspectors never received or saw the report.

The police union said the officer did his job. They believe it was the city's responsibility to get that report to the right people.

"I'm going to talk to the owner of the place as well. I've been here a few times," Chavez said.

The East Bay Times reports officers responded to the building complex 35 times between mid-2014 and the December 2016 fire, investigating incidents like illegal dance parties, thefts, drug sales, allegations of rape and illegal housing. Other city and county agencies visited the building multiple times before the fire, but no one said anything to building inspectors or did anything to shut it down.

Defense attorneys representing master tenant Derick Almena and Max Harris — the man said to be second in charge at the Ghost Ship — told CBS San Francisco this piece of evidence is game changer.

"We can point the finger at the government for not doing their job," said Harris' defense attorney, Curtis Briggs.

"They had a duty to report and follow up and they did not," said Almena's attorney, Tony Serra. "They dropped the ball."

The Oakland Police Department and Oakland city officials did not respond to requests for comment. 

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