Gregory Thompson (54), a former Walnut Creek police officer, was sentenced recently to 1 year in county jail and 3 years of felony probation for his part in attacking a woman while using a baseball bat. By all accounts, Thompson was a model officer while on the force and his friends, while supportive of the court’s decision, believe that he made a simple, but silly, mistake. It seems that Thompson could not get out of the habit of thinking like a cop. He and his family own a home near Clinton Avenue and San Pablo Avenue. About 2 a.m. this past August, Thompson noticed a woman near the home, which he was in the middle of trying to sell, and thought that she was attempting to break into it. The woman, as it turns out, was doing nothing of the sort; she was simply out of gas and trying to find a gas station. Thompson donned a mask, gloves, 2 handguns, and plastic handcuff ties, grabbed a nearby baseball bat, and attacked both the woman and her car. Well-intentioned as his behavior may have been, many say that Thompson should not have attempted to take the law into his own hands, no matter what his former training and experience may have caused him to believe.
In the state of California, the Thompson incident was identified as a case of ‘battery’ (CA Penal Code 242) as opposed to assault (CA Penal Code 240). According to the law, an assault occurs when one person tries to use violence to harm another person. On the other hand, the term ‘battery’ applies when force or violence is actually used against another person. Violations of California battery law are considered ‘wobblers,’ meaning that they may be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Depending on the circumstances of the particular case, a felony battery charge like Thompson’s could end in up to 3 years in county jail or state prison, 3 years of felony probation, and a maximum $2,000 fine.