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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RV resident tells his side of the story

Identity of the other party in the altercation with Tim Thomas revealed in OPD incident report

By David Rowe, Associate Editor, with additional reporting and photography by Ken Lester, Staff Writer

The Oakland Police Department (OPD), responding to a public records act request from The Citizen, released a redacted copy of the incident report for the altercation between Tim Thomas, Peralta’s Director of Public Safety, and the resident of a recreational vehicle (RV) parked near the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) offices that took place on May 6.  

That report revealed the identity of the RV resident.  He is Thomas James Jensen, a 75-year-old white male. It also indicated there were three witnesses to the incident, although their identities were redacted.  The OPD report referred to Jensen as the “victim” but redacted the name of the “suspect.”  OPD spokesperson, Kim Armstead, confirmed to The Citizen in a May 9 phone call that the citation was issued to Thomas. 

The Citizen was able to speak with Jensen, who goes by “Tom,” in an exclusive phone interview.  His story differs dramatically from the version provided by Edwin Prather, Thomas’ attorney, in a May 11 email to The Citizen.  

Prather contended that in the week prior to the incident, the RV resident (who he did not identify by name) illegally parked his vehicle “in an active loading zone for the District’s maintenance facility” and “physically threatened” Thomas when he asked that the RV be moved. 

Jensen’s RV parked on 9th Avenue near the PCCD district offices (Photo by Ken Lester/The Citizen)

On May 6, the RV resident “shoved a camera in Mr. Thomas’ face, yelled expletives at him, and again threatened Mr. Thomas’ life” Prather stated. “As Mr. 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 concluded. 

Jensen recalls things much differently. On the afternoon of May 5, the day prior to the altercation, “someone very loudly and forcefully banged on the door of my vehicle” he wrote in a sworn statement to the OPD. Looking out his window, Jensen saw a tall black man in “professional type work clothes.”  When he opened the door, the man “said in a very loud voice that he was going to tow my vehicle,” according to Jensen. “I asked for his identity repeatedly but he refused to give it to me,” Jensen recalled.  

When Jensen said there had been no problems parking in that spot before, the man responded “there is a new kid on the block” and shouted “you have five  days” as he was leaving, according to the statement.  Jensen did not realize the man at the door of his RV was Thomas but assumed “he may be an associate of one of the private security firms” hired by the district. 

Jensen denies Prather’s assertions that he “physically threatened” or said he would kill Thomas. “The threats were decidedly one sided against me,” Jensen said.  He did threaten the man at his door with a citizen’s arrest if his RV was towed, not yet knowing it was Thomas. 

Jensen’s flip phone which he attempted to use to take a photo of Thomas right before the altercation. Thomas’ attorney says Jensen “shoved a camera” into his client’s face (Photo by Ken Lester/Citizen)

Jensen said he has parked on 5th Avenue “for about 20 years” in two different RVs. He acknowledged parking near the district loading zone but said “the loading zone has not been used as long as I have parked there” and that “BART employees and other vehicles have parked there for years without citation.” He describes the loading zone allegation as “a pretext for Thomas’ harassment.”

The following day, May 6, Jensen again encountered Thomas, who was accompanied by “four or five guys around him.” Jensen said Thomas again threatened to tow his RV. In an attempt to document the situation, Jensen retrieved his “old flip phone” from the RV to take pictures. Jensen said Thomas “told me not to take a picture of him which I ignored because I had a perfect right to do that.”  Jensen recalled that Thomas, who was standing 15-20 feet away, then “ran towards me…and knocked me over.”  The two men fell and Jensen said his head “bounced off the sidewalk.”  Jensen said the fall left him with “blood in my hair and on the back of my shirt” but no other serious injuries. 

The OPD reported Jensen suffered a laceration on the back of his head which was treated at the scene. Due to his age and the nature of the injury, Jensen said he was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital, where he received a scan and was released. 

Before being taken to the hospital, Jensen spoke with Oakland police officers who were on the scene responding to another incident nearby.   

Thomas was cited with misdemeanor battery (California Penal Code PC242) and misdemeanor elder abuse (California Penal Code PC368(b)(1)), according to the incident report.  The battery charge carries a maximum sentence of up to six  months in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000, according to the Shouse California Law Group site. Conviction on the elder abuse charge can be punished by up to one year in jail, according to the Criminal Defense Lawyers site. 

The Peralta district is standing behind Director Thomas, calling the OPD decision to issue the citation “an error.”  

Jensen, who describes himself as an Army veteran and retired carpenter, shared the detailed records he has kept related to his ongoing dispute with the district (Photo: Ken Lester/The Citizen)

Jensen believes Thomas and Peralta should see the incident as a warning. “He  (Thomas) could have killed somebody,” Jensen told The Citizen. “If he doesn’t get the message he’s a danger to other people and he’s a danger to himself because he’s going to injure somebody seriously and he’s going to have to pay the price.”   

Jensen suspects he may have been singled out due to his involvement in a lawsuit filed by Kevin Baum against the district. Baum and his co-plaintiff, Alejandra VanPell, contend the district is unable to provide documentation that it owns the property on 5th Avenue between 8th Street and Embarcadero. This is the same street where Jensen and others park their RVs. Jensen said he was a witness in the suit. 

Jensen also shared his personal story during the interview.  He said he was born in Bakersfield, served in the US Army, and pursued a career in carpentry.  He spent time in the Pacific Northwest, he said, before moving to the Bay Area to help care for his ailing mother who “was being neglected in a board and care facility.”  Jensen said he suffers from several chronic health problems including chronic fatigue syndrome and chemical and food sensitivities.   

The OPD incident report lists Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong as the “primary assigned officer.” According to OPD spokesperson Kim Armstead, this was a “glitch in the software” and Chief Armstrong “was not on-scene, nor did he issue the citation.”  The reporting officers, according to Armstead, were B. Moss, J. Lowe, and W. Fogarty. 

Thomas met with Armstrong and Deputy Chief Darren Allison on January 10. The purpose of the meeting, according to Thomas, was to discuss a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between OPD and the district.  

In a March 23 email to The Citizen, Armstead said the January 10 meeting was to discuss “safety concerns” and ”there has been no conversation about an MOU.”  She also said a “financial arrangement” would need to be in place before an MOU could be implemented.  

The Citizen asked Mark Johnson, Peralta’s Executive Director of Marketing Communications and Public Relations, if Thomas will continue to represent the district in the MOU negotiations with OPD.  A response was not received by press time. 

The Citizen also reached out to the Office of the Alameda County District Attorney to see if it plans to pursue the charges made against Thomas and, if so, whether a court date has been set. Spokesperson Angela Ruggiero said the case is not yet in their system, but that is not unusual for misdemeanor charges.

Story updated on May 19, 2022

 

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.
Ken Lester
Ken Lester, Managing Editor
Ken Lester is an avid enjoyer of life. When you can’t find him in the upper deck at the Coliseum watching the green and gold bash homeruns, with peanuts and crackerjack in hand, you might try one of the other local sports venues. If he is still lost, check the parks (themed or not), where he can often be found with his camera capturing beauty as he sees it, or the local restaurants – bonus points if they have a reuben sandwich on the menu. If all else fails look no further than on his couch at home, where you will often find him adorned in a snuggie with his border collie Indiana draped across his lap, perhaps reading Lord of the Rings, or maybe just watching the movies again — for the hundredth time.
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    Lowell BennettJun 2, 2022 at 6:42 am

    Great writing. Excellent details and documentation. I love the picture of the “camera” that was “shoved in the face”. Thanks. L. Bennett.

    Reply