Updated: Chief Thomas out, retirement effective immediately

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Former Police Chief Al Thomas. Photo by Eze Amos Former Police Chief Al Thomas. Photo by Eze Amos

After initially refusing to confirm reports that Chief Al Thomas had resigned and was packing his office on Monday and would be out of the building by 5pm, the city issued a release that says Thomas is retiring effective immediately.

Thomas, who previously was police chief in Lexington, was the first African-American hired to head Charlottesville’s police department, and he’s spent 27 years in law enforcement since he started in Lynchburg.

He also received much of the blame for the lack of police intervention and for the deadly turn of events at the August 12 Unite the Right rally in Tim Heaphy’s independent review of the city’s handling of the summer’s invasion of white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

Some of the allegations in the report—that Thomas deleted texts, that he used a personal email to skirt FOIA and that he said to let protesters fight to make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly—he denied through his attorney, Kevin Martingayle. Martingayle did not immediately respond to messages from C-VILLE Weekly.

The report also alleged that officers feared retribution for criticism, another claim Martingayle disputed.

And some had a different interpretation of the report. Said civil rights attorney Jeff Fogel, “It’s clear Thomas is being undermined by his own staff.” Fogel and others have challenged the notion of blaming the handling of white nationalists on two black men. City Manager Maurice Jones is black.

“Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the police chief for the City of Charlottesville,” said Thomas in a statement. “I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly.  It truly has been an unparalleled privilege to work alongside such a dedicated and professional team of public servants.  I wish them and the citizens of Charlottesville the very best.”

City Manager Maurice Jones praises Thomas in a statement: “Chief Thomas has served his country and three communities here in Virginia with distinction and honor. He is a man of integrity who has provided critical leadership for our department since his arrival. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Jones did not name Deputy Chief Gary Pleasants interim chief, and says in the release that Pleasants will guide the department until an interim chief is named, and the search for a new chief begins immediately.

Updated 2:55pm

 

ORIGINAL STORY

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas has resigned and reportedly is packing his office today and will be out of the building by 5pm, according to a knowledgeable source who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

City officials declined to confirm the ouster. “I don’t have anything,” says city spokesperson Miriam Dickler. “When I do we’ll announce it.”

“I haven’t heard anything officially,” says Charlottesville police spokesman Steve Upman.

Thomas did not immediately respond to messages left with his office.

Hired in April 2016 from Lexington, Thomas was the first African-American to head the city police department. And much of the blame for the deadly results of the August 12 Unite the Right rally fell on his head in Tim Heaphy’s independent review of the city’s handling of the summer’s invasion of white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

Some of the allegations in the report—that Thomas deleted texts, that he used a personal email to skirt FOIA and that he said to let protesters fight to make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly—he denied through his attorney, Kevin Martingayle. Martingayle did not immediately respond to messages from C-VILLE Weekly.

The report also alleged that officers feared retribution for criticism, another claim Martingayle disputed.

And some had a different interpretation of the report. Said civil rights attorney Jeff Fogel, “It’s clear Thomas is being undermined by his own staff.” Fogel and others have challenged the notion of blaming the handling of white nationalists on two black men. City Manager Maurice Jones is black.

This is a developing story.

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