Widow sues Oakland, Alameda Co. over shooting death by squatter

The widow of a private banker who police say was shot and killed in East Oakland by a man who had allegedly threatened them for months, is suing the city and Alameda County officials, saying they failed to protect the couple.

Miles Armstead was a private banker and father of three whose second wife, Melina, was pregnant with their first child together. 

But in May 2020, Armstead was shot and killed outside his house at 76th and Ney avenues in East Oakland, police say, by Jamal thomas, a mentally-ill convicted felon who had been squatting next door.

"This is an American dream that was turned into a nightmare," said Adante Pointer, an attorney representing Armstead's widow.

Authorities say Thomas had a grudge against the family, terrorizing them and repeatedly breaking their windows in the months before Armstead was killed.

"The system was a silent observer, sat on its hands and ultimately allowed this tragedy to take place," Pointer said.

Pointer is now suing Oakland and Alameda County, saying police and  probation officers did nothing to stop the attacks. 

The suspect had been evicted from the house next door but came back, "essentially squatting on the land and using it as a base, if you will, to launch attacks on the Armstead family," Pointer said.

Pointer said that included using rocks and bricks to shatter their windows and threatening to burn their house down. He said police were called each time but officers didn't consider them high-priority crimes,

A neighbor who witnessed the killing told KTVU about this pattern of intimidation.

"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," said the witness, who didn't want to be identified.

KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said the family faces an uphill legal battle, because governments are usually protected from liability from the actions of its officials.

"They can't cure all ills and they can't look into the future to see which mentally ill people will commit crimes, especially hurting people," Cardoza said.

The Oakland city attorney's office declined to comment, citing pending litigation. The Alameda County counsel has not responded to a request for comment.