Suspect in Oakland slaying had history of threats against victim, police say

Candles and flowers sit outside the East Oakland home where investment banker Miles Armstead was shot and killed, authorities say, by a homeless man with a longstanding grudge.

“This victim may have been terrorized by the suspect for quite a period of time,” said Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly.

Armstead, a father of three whose wife is expecting, was gunned down Friday at the house he was trying to fix up and sell at the corner of 76th and Ney in East Oakland. A witness told KTVU what happened.

“He pulled a gun, Miles saw the gun, he turned around, got shot in the back of the head, hit the ground, he shot him a bunch of times,” said the witness, who did not wish to be identified. “I was sitting in my living room, watched the whole thing. And it was Jamal – I watched him do it.”

Hours later, Oakland police arrested the suspect, Jamal Thomas, who had been evicted from a home next door to the victim's.

Authorities and neighbors say he has repeatedly vandalized the victim's home, including just last month.

“It is alleged that the suspect then threw a brick through the window of the victim's home, narrowly striking him,” Kelly said.

A warrant was issued for Thomas' arrest for assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism. Ordinarily, that warrant would be something in the amount of $50,000.

Instead, “that arrest warrant was for one dollar, because it ended up following under the zero bail schedule,” Kelly said, adding that the bail was listed as a dollar – and not zero – so as not to confuse with “no bail,” which is distinct from “zero bail.”

The emergency "zero bail" schedule allows suspects to be cited and released or released quickly from jail, because of coronavirus concerns behind bars.

“So the suspect, had he been arrested, during that time, would have been allowed to turn around and be released from on jail on zero bail, regardless,” Kelly said.

Alameda County prosecutors had charged the suspect with threatening to burn the victim’s house down back in February.

“He kept calling the police, calling the police, and then Jamal lays low, and then he comes back, soon as you let your guard down he attacks again,” the witness told KTVU.

On Monday, interim Oakland police chief Susan Manheimer and her command staff met with Councilmember Loren Taylor and community members at the corner where Armstead was killed.

Friends say Armstead was a devoted father and soccer coach. He and his family had moved out a couple weeks ago because of the suspect. The victim showed up Friday to bring materials to workers renovating the house.

“There may have been an opportunity for the judicial system to keep this gentleman in custody, but now there is a person who is deceased,” Kelly said.

The victim and his wife were expected a baby girl together. Now, his family is planning for his funeral.