Oakland, Alameda County to pay $2.4 million to family of man killed by struggling neighbor

Lawsuit from widow and children alleged authorities missed opportunities to intervene

The city of Oakland and Alameda County will pay $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that authorities failed to intervene at critical points 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.

Jamal Thomas, 46, is still being held in Santa Rita Jail while awaiting trial on murder and assault charges.

Both the city police and the county probation department were blamed in the lawsuit for not doing enough to monitor Thomas and ensure he did not continue to antagonize the Armsteads. According to the suit filed on behalf of Melina Armstead, the victim’s widow, and their five children, police were called nearly two dozen times prior to the shooting, and Thomas was in and out of jail on criminal charges related to the escalating situation.

“This is a family who knocked on doors all over town looking for someone who believed there was a great injustice done to them that cost Miles his life,” the family’s attorney, Adanté Pointer, 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.”

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

Miles Armstead, a Fremont Bank employee, was 44 when he was fatally shot on May 1, 2020, allegedly by Thomas. Armstead’s wife was pregnant at the time, and he was remodeling their Ney Avenue home in preparation for sale. According to the lawsuit, Thomas’ harassment forced them to relocate.

The shocking shooting also brought to light how Thomas and his family, who had long lived next door, were evicted by their landlord, which family and friends say drove Thomas into drug abuse and caused his mental health to deteriorate. Thomas was reported to be squatting at his former residence and vandalizing the Armsteads’ home. Thomas was charged with assault two months before the shooting for allegedly throwing a brick through a window and nearly hitting Melina Armstead.

The lawsuit claims that authorities failed to intervene adequately 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. Following his arrest, Thomas was admitted to a state psychiatric hospital but was later declared competent to stand trial.

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

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