Thomas Crowder, former Hughson mayor and owner of Hughson Ambulance Company, has been arrested for impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer in what was believed to be a drunken driving crash outside of Patterson on Friday, June 26.
Crowder, 56, was arrested at his home in rural Ceres within hours of the incident.
The crash took place at 1 p.m. on Las Palmas Avenue. With his wife as a passenger, Canh Tram was driving his Audi down the road when he spotted in the rear view mirror a Ford pickup swerving behind him. He suspected the driver was possibly intoxicated but decided against pulling over to get out of the way because the approaching signal light at Elm Avenue turned red and he stopped for it. Crowder’s pickup crashed into the back of the Tram vehicle at about 40 mph. Because Mrs. Tram, a diabetic, began having chest pains after the impact, Tram called 911. Crowder allegedly walked up to the victim’s car – with the smell of alcohol on his breath – and told him to get out of the car so he could take care of things. Crowder allegedly told Tram that he didn’t inflict great damage to the car and they police did not need to be called. That’s when Crowder allegedly flashed a replica of a CHP badge and claimed he was an officer.
Tram’s 911 call connected to the dispatch center via Bluetooth and car speakers but he couldn’t hear because he was standing outside the car dealing with Crowder.
When the pickup driver grew angry and repeated his claim that he was a police officer, Tram grew suspicious. He used his cell phone to snap photos of both Crowder and his vehicle’s license plate. They later helped authorities track down Crowder to his home on Taylor Road southwest of Ceres.
When Tram told Crowder that he smelled alcohol on his breath, Crowder allegedly called him a “f---ing liar” and got back in his pickup and fled the scene.
The CHP and paramedics arrived to tend to the victims and the crash. The former Hughson city official was arrested a short time later on charges of DUI, hit and run, and impersonating a police officer.
Crowder told officers that he did use the replica CHP badge – which is readily available for purchase online – which he surrendered to them as evidence.
Former Waterford City Councilman Josh Whitfield who in 2010 managed a successful recall election in Hughson against Crowder, reacted strongly to the news of the arrest. Whitfield said on social media: “I abhor hypocrisy and I abhor corruption in government. I was proud to have helped lead a victory in that race and saddened that Mr. Crowder seems to have failed to learn from his past mistakes. Hughson is a better city today because of that recall election. It was proof positive the power of our democracy rest with the people and that people can right the wrongs of injustice.”
Whitfield also likened the impersonation of a peace officer “akin to stolen valor of a service member. As a veteran it really ticks me off to see it.”
On Aug. 24, 2010, Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley were recalled by citizens led by a group named Citizens for Better City Government. Recall organizers said that their effort to recall Crowder, Humphreys and Manley was motivated by a Stanislaus County civil grand jury report that found that the trio violated California’s public meeting law and conspired to fire City Manager Joe Donabed. Elected to replace them were George Carr, Jeramy Young and Jill Silva.