Man allegedly attacks Piedmont police chief, elderly Ace customer

Piedmont police arrested and tased a 42-year-old man who they say first struck an elderly customer inside Ace Hardware and then jumped inside the police chief's car and attacked him -- all rare events in this small city. 

Piedmont police said they booked Willie Gomer, who is homeless, on suspicion of assault with great bodily injury, causing injury to an elder adult, battery of a police officer, robbery, burglary, carjacking, and possessing narcotics.

The saga first began to unfold Friday just before 4:30 p.m. at the Ace Hardware on Grand Avenue, police said.

Witnesses told police that a man had "randomly struck" an elderly man from behind, causing him to lose consciousness and fall to the ground at the hardware store.

Gomer then fled the store and ran into the garden center.

Police found him, but he was "uncooperative," and refused to comply with officers' commands, police said. He also appeared to be either drunk or high on drugs, police said. 

Police said that Gomer got physical with them, and officers deployed both pepper spray and a Taser.

Gomer was able to remove the Taser prongs and ran away into a private home in the 400 block of Sunny Slope Avenue, where he allegedly threatened the homeowner, police said. 

He then ran out onto Valle Vista, where Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers had shown up himself.

"I heard this commotion," Bowers said in an interview with KTVU. "We're a small department - very small," and said he couldn't sit by while several of his officers were at the scene.  

When Bowers arrived, Gomer "popped out of the yard" of the Sunny Slope home, and refused to comply with the chief's orders to surrender.

Instead, Gomer "advanced" on the police chief and "dove into his car, and tried to drive off with it. 

"He tried to carjack me, and that's an unusual thing," Bowers said, 

Bowers got into his car to stop Gomer from fleeing, which is when Gomer and the police chief got in a physical altercation.

More officers from Piedmont, Oakland police and a security guard from the Safeway on Grand Avenue responded and took Gomer into custody.

Efforts to reach Gomer or determine if he had an attorney on Saturday were unsuccessful. 

Police said he was currently on parole for auto theft, robbery and kidnapping.

Officials said he was taken for a psychological evaluation before he would be booked at Santa Rita Jail. 

The elderly man was taken to the hospital. Bowers said the man is expected to recover.

A manager at Ace Hardware knew about the event but declined to speak to KTVU. 

Another officer was injured during the scuffle and was treated and released from the hospital.

 "I didn't do anything any other police officer wouldn't have done," Bowers said. "That's what we sign up for - to protect. We couldn't allow the violence he [Gomer] was perpetrating to continue."

A suspect ran away into a private home in the 400 block of Sunny Slope Avenue in Piedmont, where he allegedly threatened the homeowner, police said. April 26, 2024

Piedmont police investigate after Wille Gomer was accused of attacking Ace customer and running into a resident's home. April 28, 2024