July 20, 2024
A lawsuit from the widow and children of Miles Armstead alleged authorities missed opportunities to intervene in ongoing violence and harassment from Jamal Thomas, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge.

The city of Oakland and Alameda County will pay $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit claiming authorities missed key opportunities to intervene before Miles Armstead was shot and killed three years ago, allegedly by a one-time neighbor who had harassed him and vandalized his family’s home.

That neighbor, 46-year-old Jamal Thomas, continues to be held in Santa Rita Jail as he awaits trial on murder and assault charges.

The lawsuit blamed both city police and the county probation department for not doing more to monitor Thomas and ensure he did not continue antagonizing the Armsteads. Before the shooting, police were called nearly two dozen times and Thomas went in and out of jail on criminal charges related to the escalating situation, according to the suit filed on behalf of Melina Armstead, the victim’s widow, and their five children.

Jamal Thomas, 46, awaits trial on a murder charge in the fatal shooting of Miles Armstead in May 2020. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office) 

“This is a family who knocked on doors all around town trying to find someone who believed there was a great injustice done to them which cost Miles his life,” Adanté Pointer, the family’s attorney, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We recognized the magnitude of the system’s failures led to this family’s grievous loss and disregarding Thomas’ mental health needs.”

Alameda County will pay the family $1.95 million while the city will pay $450,000, according to settlement terms disclosed by Pointer and his law firm.

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Miles Armstead, who worked at Fremont Bank, was 44 when he was fatally shot on May 1, 2020, allegedly at the hands of Thomas. At the time, Armstead’s wife was pregnant and he was working on remodeling their New Avenue home with the goal of preparing it for sale. Thomas’ harassment, the suit alleged, forced them to move.

The shocking deadly shooting also brought to light how Thomas and his family, who had long lived next door, were forced out of their own home by their landlord, which family and friends say drove Thomas into drug abuse and caused his mental health to decline. The situation devolved into reports of Thomas squatting at his former residence and vandalizing the Armsteads’ home. Thomas was charged with assault for allegedly throwing a brick through the window that nearly hit Melina Armstead two months before the shooting.

The heart of the lawsuit is centered on claims that authorities failed to adequately intervene when the Armsteads repeatedly reported Thomas’ actions, and that they were not notified when Thomas was released from jail after violating a restraining order they had obtained against him. Thomas was initially committed to a state psychiatric hospital after his arrest but was eventually declared competent to stand trial.

“With this settlement his children have some of the financial support they otherwise would have missed,” Pointer said, before adding that “no settlement can ever make up for the loss of their father.”

Check back for updates.