SANTA FE — A man who was arrested after he tried to block the felling of an old tree in downtown Santa Fe denies that he ever hit anyone during the incident.
James Thomas, who goes by Steve Thomas, was charged Tuesday with one count each of trespassing and battery for allegedly disrupting work to bring down the huge cottonwood known as "Willy" that shaded the historic Sena Plaza courtyard for decades.
But Thomas denies hitting anyone, and a police report says the alleged victim didn't have any marks to indicate he was hit.
"I've never had any charge of anyone being assaulted by me," Thomas told the Journal Wednesday. "Nobody was ever scratched."
Steve Thomas is arrested by Santa Fe Police Tuesday for trying to stop workers from removing a cottonwood tree at the Sena Plaza. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
A Santa Fe Police report says officers responded to Sena Plaza after a dispatcher said a man was pulling on ropes tied to workers cutting down the tree and had also tied himself to the tree. An officer got to the scene and detained Thomas.
One man told an officer that Thomas hit him with a closed fist, but the report says he didn't show signs that he was struck. Another man at the scene said he saw Thomas jump over a wall on the northeast corner of the work site, but he said he never saw Thomas grab any ropes.
Thomas owns a tree-saving business, Tree Doctor 911 based in Albuquerque, and claims the tree just needed maintenance to keep branches from falling off and potentially hurting patrons of La Casa Sena restaurant and other businesses on the courtyard instead of having to be cut down.
"They destroyed a tree that was completely healthy," Thomas said. "This is a centerpiece (Plaza Sena). This is where all the tourists go. I've never seen a tree more healthier."
Thomas, who says he is a former boxer, said he is going to file a lawsuit against the man who claimed he punched him. "If I hit somebody, you'd know they were hit," Thomas said.
City government, which can prevent destruction of trees considered "significant," had rejected the chopping down of Willy in the past but OK'd the Plaza Sena tree-felling earlier this year as requested by the property owner.