SAN FRANCISCO -- A Northern California city agreed to pay nearly $6 million to settle a lawsuit with the family of a mentally ill man who died in 2018 after police restrained and repeatedly tasered him, the family's attorney said Tuesday.
The settlement between Pleasanton and Jacob Bauer’s family is the largest the city 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of San Francisco has paid in its history. It includes a "listening session" between Bauer's parents and Pleasanton Police Chief David Swing, who was named in the lawsuit, said Gary Gwilliam, the Bauer family's attorney.
“What the Bauers want is to try and make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and that their son’s life will have some meaning, that it wasn't in vain,” Gwilliam said.
Pleasanton City Attorney Daniel Sodergren confirmed the settlement in a statement, saying, “the insurance carrier, Bay Cities Joint Powers Insurance Authority, approved it" and that he had no further comment.
A Pleasanton police news release pointed out that the Alameda County District Attorney cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing.
"The Pleasanton Police Department values the sanctity of life and continues to extend its most sincere condolences to the Bauer family,” the statement said.
Bauer, 38, died on Aug. 1, 2018, after a struggle with Pleasanton police officers responding to a call about a man acting erratically and talking to himself inside a grocery store near his house.
The officers found Bauer outside the store, and he was cooperative, identified himself and answered their questions. But then he seemed to shut down and stared blankly into the distance. Within seconds, the officers handcuffed him, took him to the ground, tased him, punched him, and piled on top of him while he laid in the prone position, according to the complaint.
Bauer was also restrained in a full-body wrap with a spit mask and at one point had eight officers leaning on him, it said.
“This asphyxiation was every bit as serious as George Floyd’s but done by many different police officers," Gwilliam said.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis after a police officer kept pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and repeating he couldn’t breathe.
Video of the encounter obtained by the East Bay Times in February shows Bauer complaining repeatedly that he could not breathe.
A short time later, Bauer went unconscious. Paramedics gave him a sedative but were then denied access to him for eight minutes, according to the coroner’s report. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was declared dead after arriving at a hospital, the newspaper reported.
Before their son's encounter with police, Bauer's parents, John and Rose Bauer, had gone to the police department four times to tell officials they were worried their son would be hurt or killed if he ever came in contact with officers. They pointed out two other mentally ill men had been killed by Pleasanton police officers in the previous two years.
The Bauers last talked to police officials three days before their son's death and have said they were told not to worry.
Since Jacob's death, John Bauer has been going to City Council meetings to speak about de-escalation training for officials who interact with the mentally ill, Gwilliam said.
According to the settlement, the virtual “listening session” must be arranged within 30 days of the settlement being signed by all parties. The Bauers will have 10 to 20 minutes to explain what they would like to see happen when Pleasanton police officers respond to a mental health crisis. Police officials will then have a chance to talk about what has changed in the department since their son's death.
“Jacob lost his life over a few broken bottles at a grocery store," Rose Bauer said in a statement. "I hope this settlement creates real changes to stop police from using excessive force against the mentally ill.”