Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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Peralta Public Safety Director cited by Oakland Police Department

District stands behind Tim Thomas following a ‘convoluted incident’ on 5th Avenue
5th Avenue between 8th Street and Embarcadero. (Leticia Luna/The Citizen)

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. 

About the Contributors
David Rowe
David Rowe, Associate Editor
After a 40 year career in advertising, David is considering journalism as his “second act” and preparing himself for that new profession by taking classes at Laney. During his days in advertising, Rowe headed up the media departments for a number of leading ad agencies in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In this capacity, he was responsible for the planning and placement of tens of millions of dollars of paid media. A high point of his career was placing Intel’s first Super Bowl TV ad in 1997. Rowe has a lifelong interest in journalism dating back to high school in San Jose where he started an underground newspaper called, appropriately enough, The Del Mar Free Press. The school administration threatened to suspend him, so Rowe, with the help of his attorney father, sued the school district in Federal Court and won and injunction. Ultimately, the case was decided in his favor and California state law regarding the rights of high school students was re-written as a result. Rowe is a political junkie who enjoys watching all the Sunday morning news programs and is actively involved in the Joe Biden presidential campaign this year.
Leticia Luna
Leticia Luna, Editor in Chief
Leticia is a Brazilian living in the Bay Area. Her interests range from environment to education, and living abroad since 2013 has given her the opportunity to explore and learn about many cultures — so her interest in cultural diversity has only grown. In Brazil, she has taught English and studied education, now she is pursuing an English degree and hopes to continue learning and exploring the world. Her belief in communicating the truth has led her to this journalism class. Leti is also a National Parks enthusiast and loves to use her camera to photograph landscapes and wildlife. On her off time, you can find Leti on hiking trails around the Bay Area or on long road trips with her friends.
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