Couple reached out to East Bay police, terrified their son would be killed by a cop. He died in police custody anyway

Couple reached out to East Bay police, terrified their son would be killed by a cop. He died in police custody anyway

Parents of Jacob Bauer filed a wrongful death suit Thursday

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OAKLAND — In the spring of 2018, it was clear to Pleasanton residents John and Rose Bauer that the mental health of their adult son, Jacob, was quickly deteriorating. He was normally genial, outgoing, and attentive, a “computer nerd” who’d worked for Bay Area tech companies for years, his mother said.
But lately, Jacob Bauer had been paranoid — to the point that he complained passing airliners were spying on him — and prone to verbal outbursts. By June 2018, he was in “crisis mode,” his parents said, and they grew concerned for his well-being. They didn’t think he would harm himself; they were worried he’d have a fatal encounter with the police.
“Because of all of the stories you seen in the paper, all of these things that you hear that (police) do not give them time and distance, they deploy their SWAT team tactics, and then it’s too late,” Rose Bauer said in an interview Thursday.
Despite precautions the Bauers took — mentioning to officers during four face-to-face meetings that their son was mentally ill yet “harmless,” writing a card for him to give to police saying he had a mental illness and for them to call a lawyer the family had retained, and reaching out to local mental health facilities, only to be told there was no bed space — their fears were realized. Jacob Bauer died in police custody on Aug. 1, 2018.
Pleasanton police say they were taking Bauer into custody after he caused a disturbance at a local grocery store, that he resisted and tried to bite officers and that he went unresponsive while they were placing him in a restraint device. A lawsuit filed by the Bauer family Thursday morning tells a much different story: that police caused Bauer’s death by assaulting him, hitting him with a baton and stomping on him several times.
And a private investigator hired by the family says he watched a passer-by’s cell phone video of the incident that backs up the family’s account, showing officers use a Taser on Bauer — hitting him in the chest or neck — and stunning him at least three or four times while he screamed in pain. At another point, the investigator wrote, the video shows police hitting Bauer with a baton and stomping on his chest.
An attorney for the city of Pleasanton did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the suit.
Gary Gwilliam, a civil rights attorney hired by the Bauer family, put Bauer’s death in the context of several other officer-involved deaths around the Bay Area, all involving mentally ill subjects who were either shot or died while police were attempting to restrain them. He cited the recent fatal shooting of Miles Hall, a Walnut Creek resident shot by two local officers who were responding to a call about Hall having a mental breakdown. Hall allegedly waved a large metal bar at police before they shot him.
“These are people who are mentally ill, they’re not criminals. They shouldn’t be treated like criminals,” John Bauer said in an interview Thursday.
The county coroner’s report determined that Bauer died of “acute methamphetamine toxicity,” which his family also disputes. They hired their own forensic pathologist who independently reviewed Bauer’s death and found that he had been asphyxiated, writing the officers’ restraint as well as meth use contributed to Bauer’s death.
“They are supposed to get training at the police department as to how to deal with people like this, yet here we see once again another outrageous example of the police department not responding to someone who was mentally ill,” Gwilliam said.
The last day of Bauer’s life, he left his home around 2:30 p.m. to get something to drink at a Raley’s a few blocks away. Once there, he began screaming, then left the store. A concerned manager called police, thinking Bauer needed help, Gwilliam said.
Officers contacted Bauer a short distance from the store. There, they attempted to detain him. A police news release says Bauer resisted for five minutes, and that he bit and scratched the officers. During the ensuing struggle, he went unresponsive, was taken to a local hospital, and pronounced dead, police said.
Days earlier, Bauer’s parents had their last of four meetings with an officer, where they expressed concern that their needed help for his mental illness. They said the officer told them Bauer needed to hit rock-bottom before they could help him, and encouraged them to evict their son. At a prior meeting, an officer who identified himself only as “Mike” assured them that if their son did have an encounter with police, it would be resolved peacefully, Rose Bauer said.
“My life will never be the same. Jacob was a very big part of my life…He was always helping me, he was always there for me,” Rose Bauer said. “He was witty, he was funny, he was generous. All that is gone now. Every day I have to wake up and remind myself that he’s dead, no longer in my life, just my memories.”
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