District stands behind Tim Thomas following a “convoluted incident” on 5th Avenue 

5th Avenue between 8th Street and Embarcadero. (Leticia Luna/The Citizen)

May 12, 2022

By David Rowe, Associate Editor, with additional reporting by Leticia Luna, Editor in Chief

Tim Thomas, the Director of Public Safety for the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) since last November, was cited by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) for battery and elder abuse following an incident near the district offices on May 6. 

Tim Thomas, the Director of Public Safety for PCCD since November of last year, was cited by the Oakland Police Department in a May 6 incident near the district office. (photo: Peralta GEMS).

Kim Armstead, Public Information Officer for the OPD, told The Citizen in a May 9 phone call that Thomas and an “elderly male” became involved in a confrontation over whether the man’s recreational vehicle (RV) was parked on public or private land. The RV resident was taking photos and Thomas “unlawfully used force” according to Armstead. 

The RV resident suffered a “laceration to the rear of his head,” Armstead said. As a result, Thomas was cited and released by OPD on the scene, Armstead said. She characterized the confrontation, which took place on the 500 block of 5th Avenue in Oakland, as a “convoluted incident.”

The Citizen filed a public records request for the police report but it was not received by our publication deadline. 

Edwin Prather, Thomas’  “personal” attorney, who has worked with PCCD in the past, sent an email statement to The Citizen on May 11.

In the days prior to the confrontation, Prather wrote, Thomas asked the RV resident to move his vehicle, which was “illegally parked…in an active loading zone for the District’s maintenance facility.”  

The RV resident, according to Prather, “physically threatened Mr. Thomas” and even threatened to “kill him.” 

On May 6, the date of the incident, the RV resident “was on District property” according to Prather. He “shoved a camera into Mr. Thomas’ face, yelled expletives at him, and again threatened Mr. Thomas’ life.” 

Prather said that as Thomas “protected himself from the man’s aggressive actions, the man fell and took Mr. Thomas with him. Both men fell to the ground, were injured, and treated for their injuries.”

Prather characterized the OPD decision to cite Thomas with “misdemeanor conduct” as “politically charged” and chastised the OPD for its “hesitation to address continuing criminal and vehicle code violations” by “unhoused individuals” near the Peralta district offices. “Mr. Thomas looks forward to his vindication in this matter through the court system,” he concluded. 

When asked for the OPD’s response to Prather’s statement, Armstead replied to The Citizen via email “this is an open investigation and we are unable to comment at this time.”

Multiple RVs are parked on the street. The Citizen was not able to identify the RV involved. (Leticia Luna/The Citizen)

In March, Oakland District 5 councilmember Noel Gallo introduced an ordinance to prevent RVs and other large vehicles from parking on certain city streets, but other councilmembers asked for more data. According to news reports, the proposed ordinance will be discussed next at the May 24 Public Works Committee meeting.

A separate statement to The Citizen from Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director of Marketing Communications and Public Relations, expressed the district’s concern about OPD’s “error” in citing Thomas. The statement also expressed appreciation “for the work he [Thomas] has done, and will continue to do, to keep our communities safe.”  Johnson said the district is “continuing to monitor this matter and hope that the OPD will swiftly correct their error.”

While the name of the RV resident has not yet been released, the incident bears a striking resemblance to the case of Kevin Baum, the Oakland resident who filed a lawsuit against PCCD last year over the use of property located on 5th Avenue between 8th Street and Embarcadero. According to the legal filings, Baum and his co-plaintiff, Alejandra VanPell, live in a van on the property where they also “operate their recycling and clean up business.” Former PCCD Interim Director of Public Safety, Paul Llanez, was  named as a defendant in the suit, along with Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson. 

Peralta Community College District’s loading zone. (Citizen Staff)

Baum claimed that PCCD was unable to produce a title showing it actually owned the property, which it maintained had been transferred from the City of Oakland in 1967.  

U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a temporary restraining order on November 10, 2021 preventing PCCD from “removing plaintiffs and their personal property” from the parcel in question. More recently, Orrick denied Baum’s motion for summary judgment, but the restraining order remains in effect and a case management conference is scheduled for June 28, according to PacerMonitor

The Citizen asked Prather if Baum was the individual involved in the altercation with Thomas. “I do not know if the person is Kevin Baum,” he responded.  “Right now, we’re focused only on clearing Mr. Thomas’ good name.”  The Citizen also reached out directly to Baum but he did not respond directly to our questions.