The Oakland warehouse fire that broke out late Friday night and resulted in the deaths of 36 people became a topic of conversation again on Tuesday when Derick Almena, the building’s landlord, appeared on Today for an exclusive interview. Instead of answering co-hosts Tamron Hall and Matt Lauer’s pointed questions about the incident, however, Almena became increasingly tense throughout the six-minute segment and repeatedly apologized to the parents of the dead. What was supposed to be a much longer segment then came to an abrupt end.
“I’m only here to say one thing: I’m incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together,” said Almena. “People didn’t walk through those doors because it was a horrible place. People didn’t seek us out to perform and express themselves because it was a horrible place.”
Apologies notwithstanding, Lauer began the interview with a rather straightforward — and fair — question for Almena: “The family members of those who were lost want answers. They want to know who should be held accountable for the loss of their loved ones. Are you the man who should be held accountable?” Things immediately took a turn soon after:
“Am I the man who should be held accountable? Did I build something that… What am I gonna say to that? That I should be held accountable? I can barely stand here right now.”
Lauer continued pressing, noting “there were some conditions in that building that may have led to a dangerous situation and led to what happened there.” He and Hall also mentioned a prior Today interview with survivors Nikki Kelber and Carmen Brito, and another with Shelly Mac, who claimed Almena “knew it was dangerous” and “profited from this.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about me,” Almena responded. “This is profit? The loss of mass life? I’m a father. I lay my three children down there every night. Profit? This is not profit, this is loss. This is a mass grave.”