PLEASANTON — The city has settled the wrongful death case of John and Rose Bauer v. City of Pleasanton for $5.9 million, one of the largest settlements of its kind in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
The settlement also includes a listening session, during which time, John and Rose Bauer — whose son, Jacob, died in 2018 in the custody of Pleasanton Police Department (PPD) officers — will participate in a Zoom call to provide input to Chief of Police David Swing and Captain Larry Cox regarding policy changes at the PPD. The executed settlement states that the chief and captain will then be able to respond to the Bauers’ input, including what the PPD has “implemented in relation to dealing with people who may be suffering from a mental health crisis.”
“An important part of this settlement is our ability to meet directly with the Pleasanton chief of police to discuss and see implemented critically needed policy changes which help support the mentally ill when they encounter PPD,” said John Bauer.
In 2018, Jacob was a 38-year-old man residing with his parents. During the last year of Jacob’s life, his parents recalled that he had spiraled into a mental health crisis. John and Rose had notified the PPD of Jacob’s condition four times and expressed their concerns that Jacob would be hurt or killed if he encountered police officers, as two other mentally ill individuals had died in PPD officer custody in the two years prior.
Three days after plaintiffs last pleaded with the PPD for help, PPD officers responded to a call for a person acting erratically and talking to himself at Raley’s grocery store. That person was Jacob.
“Officers who responded to the scene were told that Jacob had broken some bottles and was either crazy or on drugs,” stated the Bauers’ attorneys — J. Gary Gwilliam and Jayme L. Walker of Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer and Michael Cardozo of the Cardozo Law Offices — in a press release. “The officers contacted Jacob Bauer outside the store. Jacob was cooperative, identified himself and answered their questions. Jacob seemed to shut down and stopped responding and just stared blankly into the distance. Within seconds, the officers decided to unlawfully handcuff him. Jacob asked the officers what they were doing and asked if he was free to go. Officers took Jacob to the ground then proceeded to Tase him, punch him, and pile on top of him while he lay in the prone position.”
Additional officers arrived on the scene and soon piled on top of Jacob. As many as eight officers escalated the force used against Jacob as he started screaming and uttering delusional statements. Officers claimed Jacob was resisting arrest and could be heard in body camera footage repeatedly saying, “Stop resisting.”
Jacob was Tased by two different officers, punched, kicked, hit with a baton, handcuffed and restrained in a full body wrap with a spit mask. Jacob repeatedly told officers, “You’re suffocating me” and “I can’t breathe” –– to which officers dismissively replied, “No, you can breathe, that’s why you’re yelling still.”
Jacob began to turn blue. Paramedics arrived and gave Jacob a sedative. Jacob became unresponsive, yet it was several minutes before those on scene realized he had stopped breathing.
“Officers were standing around talking about an ice cream social as Jacob died,” the release continued. “This asphyxiation was every bit as serious as George Floyd’s but done by many different police officers.”
Suit was filed on behalf of Jacob’s parents for his wrongful death and violation of his constitutional rights. Police practices experts strongly criticized the excessive force, the excessive restraints used on Jacob and the officers’ failure to use de-escalation techniques. They further criticized the lack of supervision of the scene by supervising command officers present on-site and the failure of the PPD to hold any officer accountable or find any violation of policy in the death of Jacob.
“What happened to Jacob Bauer was an outrageous tragedy that never should have occurred had PPD followed good police practices and training,” said Walker. “Nothing can fill the void that Jacob’s loss has created for his parents, John and Rose, but we hope this settlement and the policy changes that result from it will help prevent other parents from going through such unimaginable loss.”
Judge Laurel Beeler of the Northern District of California ruled that a jury should decide whether Jacob was unlawfully handcuffed and whether police used excessive force that resulted in Jacob’s death. Instead, the city decided to settle, and its insurance carrier, Bay Cities Joint Powers Insurance Authority, approved the settlement.
“The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office conducted an extensive investigation into the conduct of the officers and determined none of the involved officers committed a crime related to the level of force used,” the PPD further stated. “The Pleasanton Police Department values the sanctity of life and continues to extend its most sincere condolences to the Bauer family.”
Rose said that no parent should ever have to live with the visions of their child’s violent death.
“Jacob lost his life over a few broken bottles at a grocery store,” she said. “I hope this settlement creates real changes to stop police from using excessive force against the mentally ill.”