Six Pleasanton police officers used reasonable force to subdue a 38-year-old man who died following a violent struggle in 2018, and will not face criminal charges, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said.
A report on the circumstances leading to Jacob John Bauer’s death concluded that he died from “his own ingestion of a toxic amount of methamphetamine,” and not from the officers’ use-of-force tactics that included restraints, a leg wrap and two jolts from a Taser.
“I concur in the conclusions that the evidence does not support criminal charges being filed against any law enforcement official related to this incident,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley wrote in a letter accompanying the 7-page document, made public last week.
Jayme Walker, an attorney representing Bauer’s parents in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Pleasanton Police Department, called the District Attorney’s conclusions “extremely disappointing and upsetting.” Walker said an independent autopsy concluded the methamphetamine would not have killed Bauer “without the violent acts of police officers.”
“They make it out like it’s all on him,” Walker said.
The District Attorney’s Office report stems from an Aug. 1, 2018 confrontation and struggle near a Raley’s supermarket on Sunol Road between Pleasanton officers and the 274-pound Bauer.
Twice that day, the report said, Bauer had entered the store and behaved erratically. In the morning, he walked in circles and then mumbled to himself, laying out the contents of his wallet on the check stand while buying a soda. Bauer, assumed by employees to be under the influence of drugs or mentally ill, walked away, talking to himself and waving his arms as if trying to direct traffic.
Bauer returned to the store nearly three hours later. Growling, he lifted a shopping cart chest-high and slammed it to the ground. Bauer then wandered the store, talking loudly to himself, banging his cell phone on shelves, and drinking small amounts from 10 bottles he pulled from shelves.
Police officers Bradlee Middleton and Jonathan Chin found Bauer walking on Mission Drive. They stopped him, requested identification, and asked if he had anything illegal on him. Bauer denied breaking anything in the store.
The officers, the report said, then tried to arrest him. Bauer resisted, becoming tense and refusing to move. The officers used a leg kick to knock him to the ground and struggled to handcuff him.
Unable to do so, Middleton shot him twice with a Taser, on the hip and left shoulder, but neither electronic stun had any effect.
More officers arrived and joined the fracas, trying to pull Bauer’s left arm from under his body to handcuff it to his right wrist. They tried to restrain his legs, but Bauer kicked violently at them, the report continued.
“The officers used a combination of baton thrusts, hand strikes and at least two other ‘drive stun’ applications that had little or no effect in order to get Mr. Bauer to comply with commands to release his left arm,” the report said. “Other officers used their own body weight, coupled with various holds to restrain Mr. Bauer’s legs in anticipating of applying the leg portion of a restraint wrap.”
According to the report, it took four minutes to subdue him.
“During this time, Mr. Bauer was loudly yelling statements such as, ‘They’re trying to kill me and rape me, Mr. Trump’ and ‘Mr. Trump, please, they’re trying to kill me,’” the report said.
Bauer continued yelling about “Mr. Trump” for several minutes until the officers restrained his legs. Officers put a mask on his bloodied face to prevent him from spitting or biting.
Paramedics gave Bauer a sedative and loaded him onto a gurney. When they removed the mask, Bauer’s face had turned blue and he had no pulse, the report said. Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until they arrived at Stanford Valley Care Medical Center, where Bauer was pronounced dead.
An autopsy found Bauer died from acute methamphetamine toxicity. Contributing factors included an inability to breathe while being placed in the restraint, asphyxia while police placed him in the restraint, thickening of the heart muscle, and morbid obesity, the report said.
District Attorney’s officials concluded that the officers had sufficient cause to detain Bauer for vandalism and to determine if he should be taken into custody for “assessment, evaluation and crisis intervention.”
They ruled that the officers acted lawfully to try to detain him and to call for help when he resisted.
The report stated, “All officers involved described the extreme difficulty they had in controlling Mr. Bauer, which required the use of batons, Tasers, hand strikes and other pain compliance measures. The use of these measures was reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances.”
Walker disagreed, saying she has seen officers’ body camera videos that showed Bauer to be calm until “they just violently take him down.”
Walker said the officers should have used de-escalation techniques to keep the situation calm.
“They had no reason to detain or arrest him,” Walker said. “They shouldn’t have violently attacked him…They shouldn’t have arrested him. At the time they encountered him, he is just a citizen standing on the street.”
Walker said Bauer’s parents, John and Rose Bauer, had four times sought help from Pleasanton Police to take their son to a hospital. He had shown schizophrenic behavior, she said.
In a statement, Bauer’s parents said they were “devastated by the violent and unnecessary death of our son.”
“While we hoped that the DA would hold Pleasanton police officers accountable for his death, we are resolute in pursuing justice on his behalf through the civil courts,” they said. “We hope that our case will require the Pleasanton Police to make changes in their culture and their training in how they deal with people with mental health disabilities, so that no other family has to go through what we have gone through and continue to face every day.”
Also, in a statement, Interim Pleasanton Police Chief Craig Eiger said the department was “satisfied with the depth and thoroughness of the District Attorney’s investigation and report,” but the “loss of life is tragic for all parties involved. “
“We want to again express sympathy for the Bauer family and respect their grieving process,” Eiger said. “We hope that with the investigation complete and the final report released, the healing process can begin for Mr. Bauer’s family, the officers involved, and our community.”