According to a new wrongful death lawsuit filed this week, California’s Oakland Police Department (OPD) and Alameda County probation officers failed to act on nearly two dozen 911 calls about a violent, mentally-ill squatter before he shot and killed his neighbor, a father of four who was in the process of moving his pregnant wife and children out of their home to escape months of non-stop harassment.
Miles Armstead, a 44-year-old wealth management banker at Fremont Bank, had just sold his home and was cleaning up when Jamal Thomas shot him to death on May 1, 2020. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Armstead’s family, KRON reports.
According to attorneys, “Miles was literally cleaning up the front yard of the house he had sold in fear of Jamal Thomas when Thomas chased him down and shot him.”
Thomas was reportedly squatting next door to the Armstead family in 2019 and 2020 and would throw rocks at Armstead’s house. The disturbed man threatened to burn the house down and even injured Armstead’s wife, according to the lawyers, who said Armstead called 911 for help at least 23 times in a six-month span.
“Mr. Thomas had obvious mental health issues which contributed to him experiencing violent, uncontrollable yet persistent outbursts,” the suit alleges.
When responding to some of the calls from Armstead, Oakland police reportedly mocked his family and “complained” they were too understaffed and overworked to consider his pleas for assistance a high priority.
One OPD officer told the frightened Armsteads they were “acting like 12-year-old girls, both of you guys!” the lawsuit states. As a result of the police’s inaction, Thomas was emboldened, and the harassment continued.
The Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and the Alameda County Probation Department were all named in the lawsuit.
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“The elation the young family experienced when they embarked on homeownership quickly soured approximately two years after the Armsteads moved in,” the suit reads. “Their neighbor, Mr. Jamal Thomas, began a relentless campaign of terror and harassment against the family.”
“Mr. Thomas terrorized the Armsteads with broken windows, verbal threats, physical attacks, and eventually killed Mr. Armstead due to the failures of the Oakland Police Department, the County of Alameda and the Armsteads’ neighboring landlord who permitted, emboldened, and ultimately not only placed the Armsteads in harm’s way but significantly increased the danger and fanned the homicidal flames burning in Mr. Thomas’ mind,” the attorneys state.
In August 2019, Thomas and his family were evicted from their longtime home.
Thomas, 46, ignored the eviction and returned to the house two months later as a squatter.
By Thanksgiving Day, 2019, Thomas was banging on the Armsteads’ door, attempting to break in.
“Unfortunately, this was just the first incident in a six-month sequence of increasingly harassing and threatening behavior directed at the Armstead family,” the lawsuit says. “The Armsteads faithfully called and reported the incidents to the police. Nevertheless, defendant officers working for the Oakland Police Department failed to make an arrest, detain, and/or curb the behavior.”
The situation became so dire, the Armsteads boarded up their home in an attempt to protect themselves and obtained a restraining order against Thomas, the attorneys wrote.
Just two months before Armstead was shot, Thomas was briefly taken into custody in March 2020 for making threats.
“He was released from jail under the supervision of the County of Alameda Probation Department,” KRON reports. “According to the lawsuit, probation officers failed to ever follow up with Thomas as part of his pretrial supervised released conditions.”
For the shooting, Thomas was arrested on murder and assault charges and is currently being held in Santa Rita Jail.
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