Review Category : National News

Drama Builds at Michael Slager Murder Trial as Jury Remains Undecided

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The deliberation drama is building at the trial of former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, as the jury indicated Monday morning they are still undecided. This comes after one juror said Friday he could not “with good conscience” consider a guilty verdict for Slager, who was arrested for the shooting death of an unarmed black man.

The jury in Slager’s state murder trial began deliberating after Wednesday’s closing arguments. After a weekend break, they are continuing to deliberate Monday.

The jury asked a series of questions in a note Monday morning: Why was a voluntary manslaughter charge offered in addition to murder? Define imminent danger? What is aforethought for murder? Is there a time frame for self defense? Does the idea of self defense apply to a police officer the same as an ordinary person?

These questions come after Friday afternoon, during which the jury sent several notes to the judge, indicating their divisions and that specifically there was a single holdout.

On Friday, the judge read a letter from one juror that explained how he couldn’t convict on either charge: “I cannot with good conscience consider a guilty verdict,” the note said. “At the same time my heart does not want to have to tell the Scott family that the man that killed their son, brother and father is innocent.”

Of the 11 white and one black members of the jury, a white male juror was the holdout. He shook his head “no” when the judge asked the jury if they needed to hear back testimony from the man who recorded the witness video.

In an attempt to reach a unanimous decision, jurors sent back a handful of questions during their deliberations Friday. They wanted to know the difference between fear and passion, a sign they may have been debating not the murder charge, but the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

The jury said they were deadlocked twice Friday afternoon, and ultimately, the jury ended up breaking for the weekend without a verdict.

The judge Monday denied the defense’s request for a mistral based on Friday’s lone holdout and his note.

The jury’s disagreement comes at the end of Slager’s high-profile trial. Slager, who is white, is accused of killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, after a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston while Slager was an officer with the city’s police department.

Witness video that surfaced shortly after the deadly encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight.

Slager, who was fired from the force after the shooting, pleaded not guilty to murder. But as the trial concluded last week, the jury was also allowed to consider a voluntary manslaughter charge, officials told ABC News. The voluntary manslaughter charge was requested by the prosecution and the judge allowed it based on testimony he heard during the trial.

“The court must let the jury decide if the force used was reasonable,” Judge Clifton Newman said. “That’s the essence of the case.”

In closing arguments last week, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson described murder and voluntarily manslaughter. She said murder involves malice, which “has to be in the mind before the shots are fired.” She said malice is a feeling and an emotion. Voluntarily manslaughter, meanwhile, “is an unlawful killing in the heat of passion,” Wilson said.

Wilson said jurors must decide the difference between heat of passion and malice “because from a distance they can look the same.”

Wilson told the jury, “You can get it right.”

“Nobody has had as much information about this case as you do,” she told the jury. Wilson also said the jury has seen a lot of “smoke” and “mirrors,” but said “these are complicated, important decisions,” that must be made on facts.

When defense attorney Andy Savage gave his closing arguments, he blasted the media for creating what he described as a false narrative. Savage said the narrative surrounding the shooting in the media focused on a white cop’s shooting a black motorist and that “Mr. Scott got out of the car and ran and was shot.”

“The impression that the media has, and the state is trying to sell you, is that nothing happened — he just ran after him and shot him in the back,” he said.

“You hear the media … say … ‘unarmed man,'” Savage said. “Did Slager know that? Did he have a chance to frisk him?” Savage asked the jury. “Did he have a chance to pat him down?”

Savage said Slager shot Scott because he was in fear for his life. Savage added that Slager didn’t know what Scott would do and said Scott could have hurt someone if he got away.

Slager also faces a federal trial, which is scheduled for next year.

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Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Resume After Brief Celebration of Army Corps’ Decision

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CANNON BALL, N.D.) — The day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not approve an easement needed to permit the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, sparking a wave of celebration throughout the protest camp, efforts to protest the construction of the pipeline were expected to resume Monday.

The announcement Sunday afternoon marked a major victory for the Native American tribes and thousands of environmentalists and other activists who have demonstrated in solidarity with their cause. Many who gathered at the site of the protest met around a communal “sacred” fire to discuss the victory, and some were too overcome with emotion to put their thoughts into words.

But work on the controversial crude oil pipeline may not have been defeated by Sunday’s announcement, at least not permanently, and because of this, the protest camp is expected to resume activity Monday.

Many vowed to remain at camp until a definitive rejection of the pipeline could be secured.

Additionally, at least 2,000 military veterans who arrived Sunday to act as a “human shield” between the protesters and the police have started the process of taking over camp security, a circumstance that had led to mixed emotions around the camp due to the complicated, and often brutal history between U.S. armed forces and Native Americans.

The vets, led by Wesley Clark Jr., son of retired general and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark, are expected to be present at the camp until Dec. 7. Donations to a GoFundMe account launched by Clark in support of Veterans for Standing Rock, a group he claimed would “assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” passed the $1 million dollar mark Sunday morning.

Native American groups and environmental activists have been protesting since summer to block construction of the 1,172-mile pipeline that would have cut across four states and transport crude oil from North Dakota’s oil fields to refinery markets in Illinois.

The activists, who call themselves “water protectors,” say that the pipeline traverses culturally sacred sites and poses a risk to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply.

Prominent progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., applauded the Army Corps’ decision to halt work on the pipeline, saying in a statement, “in the year 2016, we should not continue to trample on Native American sovereignty. We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people.”

Canadian author and environmental activist Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation that the Army Corps’ announcement demonstrated the efficacy of protest as a way for activists to make gains in the movement to combat man-made climate change.

“The line between resistance and results is bright and undeniable. That kind of victory is rare precisely because it’s contagious, because it shows people everywhere that organizing and resistance is not futile. And as Donald Trump moves closer and closer to the White House, that message is very important indeed,” Klein wrote.

President-elect Donald Trump said last week for the first time that he supports the completion the pipeline. Trump has been accused of being dismissive of the concerns of scientists and activists regarding the potential threat posed by man-made climate change.

In a meeting last month with The New York Times, Trump appeared to soften his tone on the subject by acknowledging “connectivity” between human activity and climate change.

“I think there is some connectivity. Some, something,” he said in the meeting.

House Speaker Paul Ryan voiced his disapproval last night of the Army Corps’ decision, tweeting that it was “big-government decision-making at its worst.”

“I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us,” Ryan wrote, anticipating the start of Trump’s administration next month.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who gained prominence when she left the Democratic National Committee to campaign for Bernie Sanders during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, and was among the more high profile veterans attending the protests at Standing Rock, urged caution to activists, suggesting on Twitter that more fights were likely on the horizon.

“While we celebrate today’s news, we cannot be complacent. We must continue to protect our water and preserve our land,” she wrote on Sunday night.

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Community Celebrates Missing Mom’s Return with Welcome Home Party

Courtesy of Keith Papini(REDDING, Calif.) — Members of a tight-knit California community gathered over the weekend to welcome home Sherri Papini, a mother of two whose harrowing alleged kidnapping has captured worldwide attention.

Hundreds of people met at the Redding Civic Auditorium on Saturday dressed in pink, Papini’s favorite color, and took a Christmas card photo to send to the family as a gift.

Despite swirling rumors and mixed reactions surrounding the family’s ordeal, friends and locals rallied together to send a positive message to the Papini’s after the 34-year-old’s alleged three-week abduction.

Mayor Missy McArthur thanked the residents of Redding for their help, according to KRCR, a local ABC News affiliate.

“We never lost hope, we kept working, we made it happen. We’re so proud of our community, and thank you so much,” said McArthur.

Authorities are still hunting for the alleged kidnappers. Based on Sherri’s description of her alleged captors, Sheriff Bosenko told ABC News that authorities are searching for two Hispanic female adults armed with a gun and driving a dark SUV.

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Death Toll from Oakland Fire Reaches 36 and Could Continue to Rise

iStock/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) — The death toll from the Oakland, California, warehouse fire has now climbed to 36 as authorities continue to discover more bodies — some of them of teens possibly younger than 17 — after a blaze broke out during a dance party in the building that housed artist studios.

The Oakland Fire Department has searched 70 percent of the charred building so far but had to stop this morning because of unsafe conditions, Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed told Good Morning America Monday. They plan to resume their search for victims later Monday.

“The unfortunate reality of this somber Monday morning is that we’re anticipating additional bodies being recovered within the structure,” Reed told GMA Monday morning. “We’re at approximately 70 percent of coverage in terms of the area that we’re able to search, and the 30 percent that’s left is 12 to 15 feet high with debris.”

When Reed spoke, 33 bodies had been found, and the number has now risen by three. Of the 36 victims, 11 have been positively identified, authorities said Monday morning.

The Oakland Fire Department first responded to reports of a structure fire at the warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” around 11:32 p.m. Friday night. Reed told reporters the facility appeared to function as a residential building that hosted a makeshift artists’ studio, as well as parties like the one that took place Friday night.

Authorities Sunday asked families with missing loved ones who attended the party to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the blaze, and the District Attorney’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Reed said Monday morning the history of the building is being examined for clues about how the tragedy took place.

“The city of Oakland is still looking at the history with the building. … We’ve got a vibrant community in Oakland that we embrace and we obviously want to make sure that we’re preventing any disasters like this in the future,” Reed said.

The Oakland-based weekly newspaper Eastbay Express has previously blamed gentrification and rising rents in the Bay Area for putting the Northern California region’s counter-cultural arts scene in a crisis of space and money.

Authorities said Monday morning that firefighters were encountering obstacles in their search due to the precarious nature of the building’s structure.

Reed said Monday firefighters are taking mental health breaks as a way of coping with the exhausting and traumatic job they are undertaking.

“We set up at our union hall yesterday for the anticipation of many firefighters that just wanted to kind of watch football together and chill, eat some pizza, debrief with peers before going home to their families. Sometimes it helps to kind of offload those emotions before bringing it home,” Reed told GMA.

“We’ve got our peer-support group off the scene, available offsite. We have an incredible number of new firefighters who are realizing the somber effect of a very dangerous fire and the tragic loss in our community.”

Rain is expected in the region on Wednesday, a circumstance that could further complicate recovery efforts for firefighters.

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Man Fires Assault Rifle in Pizzeria Named in Fake News Conspiracy

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Authorities arrested a man on Sunday who fired an assault rifle inside a popular Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant that has become a target after being featured in a fake news story.

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina, entered Comet Ping Pong in Northwest D.C. on Sunday afternoon wielding an assault rifle — sending patrons fleeing from the popular pizza joint — before firing one shot, according to police.

The restaurant was featured in a made up news story circulated online during the presidential election.

Welch told authorities he entered the establishment to “self-investigate” a spurious theory in the story that involves Hillary Clinton.

D.C. Metro Police referred to the story as “a fictitious online conspiracy theory” — but that hasn’t stopped believers from harassing the business and its patrons both online and in person.

According to police, Welch entered the restaurant around 3 p.m. and pointed a gun in the direction of an employee. That employee was able to flee and call police, who arrived shortly thereafter and arrested Welch without incident.

Welch discharged his firearm one time. There were no reports of injuries, police said.

Police found two weapons on Welch and another in his vehicle. Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

“What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences,” Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis said in a statement on Sunday.

“I really hope that all these people fanning the flames of this conspiracy theory would take a moment to contemplate what has gone on today and maybe to stop,” he told WJLA, an ABC affiliate.

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Police: Suspected Gunman Went to DC Pizza Place to ‘Self-Investigate’ Fake News Story

Twitter / @bayreef (WASHINGTON) — A North Carolina man who fired a gun Sunday at a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. said he was there to “self-investigate” a fake news conspiracy theory, according to police.

The online conspiracy theory “Pizzagate” has circulated since the presidential election with fake news stories alleging crimes involving Comet Ping Pong, a popular pizza place in the nation’s capital, and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Around 3 p.m. Sunday, the Metropolitan Police Department said officers responded to reports of a man with a firearm at Comet Ping Pong. The man allegedy pointed a firearm in the direction of an employee at the restaurant and police said the employee was able to escape and call authorities.

The suspect then fired at least one shot inside the restaurant, police said, but there were no reported injuries. Two firearms were recovered from inside Comet Ping Pong and an additional weapon was found inside the suspect’s vehicle, according to police.

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina, was arrested without incident and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue said in a statement.

Police added later that in a “post arrest interview” Sunday night, the suspect said he was at Comet Ping Pong to “self-investigate ‘Pizza Gate’ (a fictitious online conspiracy theory),” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Initially police said they did not have any information linking the actions of the suspect to the false conspiracy theory.

Since the fake news stories about “Pizza Gate” first began, Comet Ping Pong employees said its owner, staff, and other businesses nearby received threats and have been attacked on the internet, according to the Washington Post.

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At Least 33 Bodies Recovered in Oakland Warehouse Fire; Search Continues

iStock/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Searchers have recovered at least 33 bodies from a fire-ravaged warehouse in Oakland, California, that housed artist studios and was hosting a dance party when the deadly blaze broke out, officials said Sunday.

Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office warned that he anticipates that “the number of victims will rise” from a fire officials say may be the deadliest ever in Oakland. The search effort is expected to last for days, he said.

Kelly called the 30 deaths “astronomical.”

Authorities are also asking families with missing loved ones to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the horrific blaze.

The District Attorney’s Office has criminal investigation teams actively looking at the fire with the other law enforcement agencies involved in investigating the fire, according to a statement from the City of Oakland.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ABC News that she has ordered an investigation into the building’s troubled history, including a complete review of all records of complaints. Libby also told ABC that she ordered an independent analysis into the city’s handling of this building and others like it.

The Oakland Fire Department responded to reports of a structure fire at the warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” on 31st Avenue at around 11:32 p.m. on Friday night. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said Ghost Ship appeared to function as a residential building that hosted a makeshift artists’ studio, as well as parties like the one that took place on Friday night.

It’s unclear if the building was equipped with smoke alarms, the fire chief added.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told ABC News that firefighters have been impacted emotionally by bodies found. She described the precarious scene firefighters have encountered inside of what is left of the warehouse, where the second floor is hanging just above the heads of search crews, with pianos, appliances and other materials dangling from above.

Preliminary indications suggest the blaze was not caused by arson, but rather an electrical fire. The power went out inside the building when the fire began and the flames blocked the building’s only exit, making it difficult for people inside to escape, an official briefed on the ongoing investigation told ABC News.

ABC Bay Area affiliate KGO-TV reported that Derick Ion, founded the Ghost Ship Artist Collective and ran it at the warehouse. ABC News reached out to Ion but did not immediately receive a response.

Ion appeared to address the fire in a Facebook post early on Saturday morning by saying that “everything I worked for is gone.”

“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,” he wrote.

Oakland’s warehouses have become hubs for artists and musicians in recent years.

The Oakland-based weekly newspaper Eastbay Express has attributed gentrification and rising rents in the Bay Area as putting the Northern California region’s counter-cultural arts scene in a crisis of space and money.

The Oakland Fire Department confirmed to the press that they are currently working with a variety of agencies in the aftermath of the tragedy, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Search and Rescue, and the American Red Cross, among others.

Kelly asked the public to be patient as authorities look into the cause of the blaze, and continue to search for the missing and the dead.

“We will be here for days and days to come,” Kelly said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Army Corps Will Not Grant Easement for Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(MANDAN, N.D.) — The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works announced Sunday in a statement.

The Army claimed in a statement that Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy based her decision on a need to explore “alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing.”

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released a statement in support of the decision, saying that the “thoughtful approach established by the Army Sunday ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts.”

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe also praised the decision, and thanked both the Obama administration and the many people who supported the effort to stop the pipeline from being built across Lake Oahe.

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement. “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.”

The news comes on a day when at least 2,000 U.S. military veterans have arrived at Standing Rock amid frigid cold to help battle against the construction of the pipeline.

The vets, led by Wesley Clark Jr., son of retired general and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark, began arriving in force Sunday to help protest against the controversial crude oil pipeline project in North Dakota.

They joined the months-long demonstration at what felt like a moment of heightened drama: The North Dakota governor had issued an emergency evacuation order for protesters around the site, which follows a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deadline for demonstrators to leave the area by Monday, Dec. 5.

Today’s @usarmy announcement underscores that tribal rights are essential components to analysis of #DAPL going forward.SJ pic.twitter.com/2VAiubBTLL

— Sally Jewell (@SecretaryJewell) December 4, 2016

But the evacuation order, which could have come with mass arrests, was made prior to Sunday’s statement by the Army.

Protesters and their supporters showed little inclination to back down, prior to the announcement this afternoon.

Donations to a GoFundMe account launched by Clark in support of Veterans for Standing Rock, a group he claimed would “assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” passed the $1 million dollar mark this morning, coming from more than 24,000 individual donors, according to a page promoting the cause.

Standing Rock protesters described the veterans’ mission as serving as a kind of “human shield” between peaceful demonstrators and police.

In addition to Clark’s “peaceful militia,” the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told ABC News on Friday that it would send commissioners to North Dakota to monitor for any possible civil rights violations, as clashes between protesters and law enforcement have at times turned violent.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company behind the Dakota Pipeline, has argued that concerns about its potential to pollute water are unfounded.

He also wrote in an internal memo to staff in September that “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route,” suggesting that the construction of the pipeline would not affect Native Americans who live in the area where it is being built.

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At Least 30 Bodies Recovered in Oakland Warehouse Fire; Search Continues

iStock/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Searchers have recovered at least 30 bodies from a fire-ravaged warehouse in Oakland, California, that housed artist studios and was hosting a dance party when the deadly blaze broke out, officials said Sunday.

Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office warned that he anticipates that “the number of victims will rise” from a fire officials say may be the deadliest ever in Oakland. The search effort is expected to last for days, he said.

Kelly called the 30 deaths “astronomical.”

Authorities are also asking families with missing loved ones to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the horrific blaze.

Meanwhile, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ABC News that she has ordered an investigation into the building’s troubled history, including a complete review of all records of complaints. Libby also told ABC that she ordered an independent analysis into the city’s handling of this building and others like it.

The Oakland Fire Department responded to reports of a structure fire at the warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” on 31st Avenue at around 11:32 p.m. on Friday night. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said Ghost Ship appeared to function as a residential building that hosted a makeshift artists’ studio, as well as parties like the one that took place on Friday night.

It’s unclear if the building was equipped with smoke alarms, the fire chief added.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told ABC News that firefighters have been impacted emotionally by bodies found. She described the precarious scene firefighters have encountered inside of what is left of the warehouse, where the second floor is hanging just above the heads of search crews, with pianos, appliances and other materials dangling from above.

Preliminary indications suggest the blaze was not caused by arson, but rather an electrical fire. The power went out inside the building when the fire began and the flames blocked the building’s only exit, making it difficult for people inside to escape, an official briefed on the ongoing investigation told ABC News.

ABC Bay Area affiliate KGO-TV reported that Derick Ion, founded the Ghost Ship Artist Collective and ran it at the warehouse. ABC News reached out to Ion but did not immediately receive a response.

Ion appeared to address the fire in a Facebook post early on Saturday morning by saying that “everything I worked for is gone.”

“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,” he wrote.

Oakland’s warehouses have become hubs for artists and musicians in recent years.

The Oakland-based weekly newspaper Eastbay Express has attributed gentrification and rising rents in the Bay Area as putting the Northern California region’s counter-cultural arts scene in a crisis of space and money.

The Oakland Fire Department confirmed to the press that they are currently working with a variety of agencies in the aftermath of the tragedy, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Search and Rescue, and the American Red Cross, among others.

Kelly asked the public to be patient as authorities look into the cause of the blaze, and continue to search for the missing and the dead.

“We will be here for days and days to come,” Kelly said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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30 Bodies Recovered in Oakland Warehouse Fire; Search Continues

iStock/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Searchers have recovered 30 bodies from a fire-ravaged warehouse in Oakland, California, that housed artist studios and was hosting a dance party when the deadly blaze broke out, officials said Sunday.

Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office warned that he anticipates that “the number of victims will rise” from a fire officials say may be the deadliest ever in Oakland. The search effort is expected to last for days, he said.

Kelly called the 30 deaths “astronomical.”

Authorities are also asking families with missing loved ones to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the horrific blaze.

Meanwhile, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ABC News that she has ordered an investigation into the building’s troubled history, including a complete review of all records of complaints. Libby also told ABC that she ordered an independent analysis into the city’s handling of this building and others like it.

The Oakland Fire Department responded to reports of a structure fire at the warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” on 31st Avenue at around 11:32 p.m. on Friday night. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said Ghost Ship appeared to function as a residential building that hosted a makeshift artists’ studio, as well as parties like the one that took place on Friday night.

It’s unclear if the building was equipped with smoke alarms, the fire chief added.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told ABC News that firefighters have been impacted emotionally by bodies found. She described the precarious scene firefighters have encountered inside of what is left of the warehouse, where the second floor is hanging just above the heads of search crews, with pianos, appliances and other materials dangling from above.

Preliminary indications suggest the blaze was not caused by arson, but rather an electrical fire. The power went out inside the building when the fire began and the flames blocked the building’s only exit, making it difficult for people inside to escape, an official briefed on the ongoing investigation told ABC News.

ABC Bay Area affiliate KGO-TV reported that Derick Ion, founded the Ghost Ship Artist Collective and ran it at the warehouse. ABC News reached out to Ion but did not immediately receive a response.

Ion appeared to address the fire in a Facebook post early on Saturday morning by saying that “everything I worked for is gone.”

“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,” he wrote.

Oakland’s warehouses have become hubs for artists and musicians in recent years.

The Oakland-based weekly newspaper Eastbay Express has attributed gentrification and rising rents in the Bay Area as putting the Northern California region’s counter-cultural arts scene in a crisis of space and money.

The Oakland Fire Department confirmed to the press that they are currently working with a variety of agencies in the aftermath of the tragedy, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Search and Rescue, and the American Red Cross, among others.

Kelly asked the public to be patient as authorities look into the cause of the blaze, and continue to search for the missing and the dead.

“We will be here for days and days to come,” Kelly said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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