OPD Officer Tases Resident During Encampment Closure

Zack Haber
5 min readJul 20, 2022

Police say they are investigating their use of force after they arrested a resident for harming a city employee, and that the resident didn’t comply with commands. Witnesses say an officer used unnecessary force, and that he tased a resident before giving him enough time to comply with the commands.

Sergeant Josiah Ladd of the Oakland Police Department stands outside of an ambulance on Wood Street near Grand Avenue in West Oakland on the afternoon of July 14. Photo by Zack Haber.

Three witnesses report that Officer Forest Maio of the Oakland Police Department tased a homeless resident in the afternoon of July 14 during an encampment closure near the corner of Wood and 24th Streets in West Oakland. This reporter reviewed photographs which matched these reports.

OPD spokesperson Officer Kim Armstead stated the department is investigating this use of force incident which occurred after “officers were advised of an individual who harmed a Public Works employee…officers located the individual and attempted to detain him,” and “the individual did not comply with the officer’s commands.”

Witnesses also report the resident hit his head on the street during the incident, which left him with a cut near his eye and caused blood to run down his face and neck. Timestamps from photographs of the incident show it occurred at 2:53 pm. According to Oakland Fire Department spokesperson, Michael Hunt, OPD requested medical response at 2:54 pm.

The three witnesses all report they felt police used excessive and unnessesary force in the situation.

“It felt disgusting and heartbreaking,” said Jaz Colibri, a homeless resident who lives nearby, describing the incident. “I was on the verge of tears.”

According to Colibri, “about half an hour to an hour” before Officer Maio tased the individual, she saw the resident spit in the general direction of a Public Works employee.

“I didn’t get the impression that he was trying to hit [the employee],” Colibri said. “And the spit fell into a trash heap.”

Colibri also remembers having a conversation with the resident who explained how, earlier in the day, he had thrown a plastic water bottle at a dump truck Public Works employees used during the closure.

Records show officers arrested the resident under suspicion of committing misdemeanor battery and a felony for throwing a substance at a vehicle. The resident was released from custody yesterday on his own recognizance. At the time of publication, a District Attorney spokesperson stated that the DA had not charged the resident with any crime related to the July 14 incident.

Mike DiMaria, who also witnessed the tasing and arrest, said it occurred during the third day of an encampment closure where he saw some some Public Works employees disposed of and/or removing homeless individuals’ possessions without their consent. He witnessed the resident, who eventually got tased, losing possessions such as pots and pans. DiMaria feels the resident was expressing anger and stress but wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. Colibri said the resident expressed concern about being able to keep his tools.

“We would tell them not to take certain things [from the resident],” said DiMaria. “But they would take them. I think the city had actively escalated the situation with him the whole week.”

This reporter emailed Oakland’s Communication Director Karen Boyd multiple times requesting comment on this story. While Boyd acknowledged receiving the requests, she did not provide answers to any questions by publication time.

A video that a witness shared with this reporter directly following the tasing shows the resident addressing police and saying that a public works employing driving a dump truck “followed me and taunted me…he was in the truck…and I threw a water bottle of all things…then I stepped away so I wouldn’t have an issue.” The resident asked “what did I do besides that to be arrested?”

Left: Officer Forest Maio appears on Wood Street directly right after the use of force incident. Right: Police surround the resident on Wood Street. These images were taken on July 14 and provided by a witness who requested anonymity out of concerns of possible retaliation.

EmilyRose Johns, a lawyer who often works on cases involving homeless people and civil rights violations, showed up to the location shortly after the tasing occurred, and made a special appearance to represent the resident to help secure his release during his arraignment. In an interview with this reporter, she described the felony police arrested the resident under the suspicion of as “a hard sell.”

“The line the police are telling is that the plastic bottle was meant to cause great bodily harm, which is ridiculous,” she said.

According to Officer Kim Armstead “arrests, and/or detainments, are not common” during cleanups and closures of encampments. Talya Husbands-Hankin, who founded the homeless advocacy group Love & Justice in The Streets and has been to well over 100 encampment closures in Oakland since 2016, agrees. She witnessed the tasing and arrest on July 14 and had only ever seen police detain someone one other time during an encampment closure.

“It was shocking to see the violence from OPD,” Husbands-Hankin said. “And then to see him be arrested was extremely surprising because the city always talks about how they don’t arrest people during sweeps.”

Colibri and DiMaria both said that the resident told them he had been meeting with a non-profit to try to work out possible shelter options shortly before police arrested him. The duo, along with Husbands-Hankin, saw the resident walking his leashed dog back to his possessions when police officers suddenly started running at him and yelling he was under arrest. All three witnesses said they thought he wasn’t given enough time to comply with the commands.

“The seconds between them yelling at him, running at him and tasing him seemed to happen all at once,” said Husbands-Hankin.

“The dog started running,” said Colibri. “It was unclear whether he was running away or the dog was him pulling along because it happened so fast.”

Records show OPD never sited the resident for resisting arrest.

After the tasing and arrest, work to close the encampment halted. According to Colibri, around 20 people had lived in the area the city was working to clear and that now, about half the residents still remain there.

During a visit today, this reporter saw makeshift homes along with RVs and trailers along Wood Street and between Grand Ave and 26th Street, which was the encampment area the city had planned on closing. The area is part of the large Wood Street encampment on land that the city and CalTrans both own sections of. CalTrans had planned on clearing their land of homeless residents by the end of the month, but a federal judge has stalled these plans and allowed residents to challenge them in court starting on Friday.

In an emailed statement, OPD spokesperson Armstead addressed police presence at encampment operations.

“City workers have faced significant challenges including harassment and aggressive behavior,” she wrote. “For the safety of those in encampments, as well as City workers, OPD officers are assigned to monitor these cleanups.”

Johns, the lawyer, feels such police presence is not helpful.

“If we wanted to really provide services during encampment closures we would involve social workers, therapists and legal specialists to help people get benefits and clear legal barriers to obtaining housing,” Johns said. “To have police involved at all deteriorates trust in the systems that are in place that might be able to provide services because police only know one way of engaging with the public, and that is through the use of force.”

Note: The Post News Group is scheduled to be publish a similar version of this article soon.