Parents of Mentally Ill Man Who Died in Police Custody Sue Pleasanton Police, City

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Rose and John Bauer, with their attorneys, speaking to the press on Thursday.  (Kate Wolffe/KQED)

The parents of a mentally ill Pleasanton man who died in police custody last summer are now suing the city and its Police Department for excessive force and wrongful death.

Jacob Bauer, 38, died in police custody last Aug. 1 after officers responded to a complaint that he was causing a disturbance at a Raley's grocery store in Pleasanton. According to the store manager, Bauer slammed a shopping cart to the ground and broke bottles of alcohol.

Police said that Bauer resisted arrest outside the store and tried to bite and scratch the officers, who then used a Taser to subdue him. After being restrained, the officers said, he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital for a routine examination. The officers reported no signs of respiratory distress until he was inside the ambulance. Bauer was then pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

The suit alleges that during the encounter, the officers failed to de-escalate the situation or provide appropriate help, instead responding with extreme aggression. It claims that police restrained Bauer’s hands and legs, placed a spit mask over his mouth and used a Taser on him several times without reason.

Jacob Bauer, 38, who died last August after Pleasanton police used a Taser to subdue him. (Courtesy of the Bauer family)

Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that after restraining him, police hit Bauer with a baton and stomped on his chest.

"[The police] act that way because they don't know how to handle people," said Michael Cardoza, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "They get frustrated with people that are agitated, so they decide, 'Be quiet, I'm gonna make you quiet.' "

The Alameda County coroner's report determined the cause of death as a methamphetamine overdose.

However, Bauer’s parents allege their son died as a result of the police encounter. They say a second independent autopsy performed in September at the family's request supports their allegation.

At a press conference Thursday, Rose and John Bauer said they made contact with Pleasanton police four different times prior to the incident to explain that their son was mentally ill but harmless and wasn’t carrying any weapons.

"I said, 'Please put him on your radar,' " said John Bauer. " 'If you guys have an encounter with him, just let him walk home, he’s going through psychotic episodes.' "

The Bauers say their son began experiencing severe paranoia in early 2018 and they were actively seeking help for him.

The suit comes amid growing debate in California and nationwide of how police should treat suspects with mental disorders.

The Pleasanton Police Department said it was unable to comment on the suit, as the case is part of two open investigations.