An Orange County elementary school teacher suspended for the second time over footage of him apparently attacking skateboarders defended his actions on Tuesday as being guided by a divine presence.
“When I stepped in, I felt compelled by a higher power,” 58-year-old Thomas Hammer told the Orange County Register. “Honestly, have you ever been grabbed by the Lord in a way you never thought you would or you could? That’s exactly what I’m testifying to, and I’m not speaking in hyperbole. I’m speaking right from the heart.”
Hammer, a second-grade teacher, was placed on administrative leave again after parents at Cielo Vista Elementary in Rancho Santa Margarita withdrew their children in response to his re-instatement in a non-classroom “support role.”
KTLA-TV reported that Hammer had recently finished serving a two-month suspension stemming from his August 2013 arrest on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and taking property.
Hammer was charged after being identified in a 30-second video posted online last June. The clip, filmed outside a San Clemente skate shop, shows Hammer approach and push a boy off of his skateboard, then seemingly attempt to run away before stopping and trying to throw the board onto a balcony. The felony charge of taking property was later dismissed.
OC Weekly reported that, though Hammer was brought back in a non-classroom “support role,” between 20 and 25 students were kept home by their parents in response.
“It’s shameful and unacceptable that the district has even gotten to this point, and that he’s on our campus in the first place,” PTA vice president Karly Foster told KABC-TV. “As parents, we should feel comfortable to send our students to a safe environment.”
Hammer told the Register that the skaters were causing “absolute chaos and mayhem” at the store before he was caught on video.
Watch KTLA’s report on the uproar surrounding Hammer, as aired on Tuesday, below.