Charlottesville, Va., Police Chief Al Thomas announced Monday that he has retired, effective immediately, after serving in the role for about 18 months, reports the Charlottesville Daily Progress. Deputy Chief Gary Pleasants will lead the department until City Manager Maurice Jones appoints a new chief. Thomas’ departure follows an independent review of the city’s handling of the deadly Aug. 12 white nationalist rally. The review, released Dec. 1, found several missteps on city officials’ part, Thomas included. The review alleges that Thomas attempted to hide material from investigators and intentionally allowed the fighting in and around Emancipation Park on the morning of the rally so that an unlawful assembly could be declared. Thomas’ attorney, Kevin Martingayle, denied the allegations.
Attorney and civil rights activist Jeff Fogel, who has feuded with Thomas and other police officials over alleged police misconduct, said he wants more of an explanation for the abrupt retirement in light of unresolved questions about how the white nationalist rally this summer was handled. Fogel said he also thinks city officials should push to hold Virginia State Police Col. W. Steven Flaherty accountable for the failure to protect the public from the violence that erupted during the August rally. The review found that Pleasants was not authorized to order state troopers to use tear gas on people who started to yell at the police after protesting a July Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville that had just ended. Pleasants reportedly told other officers after the incident: “Damn right I gassed them.”