The city of Pleasanton and the parents of Jacob Bauer have agreed to settle the lawsuit brought over the local man's death in police custody for $5.9 million and a private meeting with Pleasanton Police Department leadership to discuss policy changes around mental health response, the family's attorneys announced Tuesday morning.
The agreement, which averts a potential jury trial, sees John and Rose Bauer dismiss their federal litigation while the city and the individual police officers listed as defendants admit no fault or liability for Jacob Bauer's 2018 death and continue to deny the allegations.
"No parent should ever have to live with the visions of the violent death of their child," Rose Bauer said in a statement. "Jacob lost his life over a few broken bottles at a grocery store. I hope this settlement creates real changes to stop police from using excessive force against the mentally ill."
"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," John Bauer added.
Pleasanton city attorney Dan Sodergren confirmed the settlement Tuesday and explained the decision was made by the city's insurance pool, the Bay Cities Joint Powers Insurance Authority (BCJPIA) and its excess insurance pool California Affiliated Risk Management Authorities (CARMA).
"Under the Memorandum of Coverage between the City and BCJPIA, BCJPIA (and CARMA), at its own expense, has the right to assume control of the negotiation and settlement of any case which it determines, in its sole discretion, to have a reasonable probability of resulting in an ultimate net loss in excess of the City's retained limit (deductible) of $250,000. Based on this provision, BCJPIA assumed control of this case. I do not have any additional comments," Sodergren told the Weekly.
Jacob Bauer died at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare hospital on Aug. 1, 2018, less than two hours after being restrained following a physical confrontation with Pleasanton police officers outdoors in the Oak Hills Shopping Center after the 38-year-old man was accused of breaking bottles inside Raley's.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office cleared officers Brad Middleton and Jonathan Chin of criminal culpability for Bauer's death in 2020, concluding the use of force was reasonable given the circumstances and citing the county coroner's determination of methamphetamine toxicity as the cause of death.
Bauer's parents, who sued the city and police officials initially in June 2019 for wrongful death and violating Bauer's constitutional rights, disagreed with the official conclusions, including arguing their third-party autopsy determined their son died as a result of asphyxia during physical restraint by police.
The interaction between the two first-arriving officers and Bauer turned physical on the grass strip behind Jim's Country Style Kitchen along Mission Drive just before 3 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2018, with Bauer becoming combative after officers grabbed his arms and wrists to detain him, according to police bodycam footage and the DA's report.
Amid the five-minute struggle, which saw Bauer kick and scratch Chin and police officers, including backup arrivals, deliver blows with their hands, batons and several Taser stuns, Bauer was ultimately handcuffed with multiple sets of linked cuffs. No gunshots were fired during the exchange.
Police then restrained a resistant Bauer with a body-wrap device as well as a spit mask. A paramedic also administered a sedative at 3:19 p.m.
According to the DA's report, paramedics removed the spit mask nine minutes later inside the ambulance to find Bauer's face bluish in color and moments later they could not find a pulse. He was pronounced dead at 4:15 p.m.
The county coroner cited acute meth toxicity as Bauer's cause of death, with contributing factors (not resulting in the underlying cause) to include probable mechanical asphyxia, cardiac hypertrophy and morbid obesity.
In addition to police actions depicted in the video footage and the conclusion on cause of death, among the aspects of the situation that drew the ire of Bauer's parents was that they said they called Pleasanton PD at least four times in the weeks before Aug. 1, 2018 to try to get their son remanded for a mental health evaluation while observing his emotional deterioration but were told there was nothing the police could do at that point.
Pleasanton Police Chief David Swing responded to the settlement by "the city's insurance carrier," saying in part, "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 Pleasanton Police Department values the sanctity of life and continues to extend its most sincere condolences to the Bauer family," added Swing, who was not police chief at the time Bauer's death occurred.
The settlement stipulates that all parties agree the deal "shall not constitute or be construed as an admission of liability or fault by (the) defendants or any of the employees of the city of Pleasanton," while also acknowledging that the defendants still "dispute plaintiffs' allegations and that this agreement is made by the parties to avoid the risk of litigation and trial."
The lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice, meaning the civil case is closed permanently and the parents cannot reintroduce similar litigation in the future.
The Bauers' attorneys -- with the Oakland-based law firm Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer -- noted that the city recently lost its bid to have the lawsuit tossed before trial, but Judge Laurel Beeler of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in the family's favor.
"What happened to Jacob Bauer was an outrageous tragedy that never should have occurred had PPD followed good police practices and training," said attorney Jayme Walker, a partner at the Gwilliam firm who personally represented the Bauers.
"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," Walker added.
The main non-monetary term of the settlement, from the Bauers' perspective, is a requirement for a conference call via Zoom between themselves and Chief Swing and/or Capt. Larry Cox.
The "listening session" must include 10-20 minutes for the Bauers to "provide their input regarding policy changes at PPD with regard to PPD's responses to people who may be suffering from a mental health crisis."
"The Chief and/or Captain will then be able to respond to the Bauers' input, including what PPD has implemented in relation to dealing with people who may be suffering from a mental health crisis, including since Jacob Bauer's death, and what PPD is contemplating in the future in responding to calls involving people who may be suffering from a mental health crisis," the agreement reads.
The settlement does not mandate that any policy changes be implemented by Pleasanton PD.
The Bauer case marks the second time the city, via its insurance pool, settled a lawsuit over an in-custody death. In April 2018, Pleasanton agreed to terms to dismiss a federal civil case for $285,000 and no admission of wrongdoing for the 2015 fatal police shooting of John Deming Jr.
The $5.9 million figure reached in the Bauer case is among the largest financial settlements for a police custody death in the Bay Area.
The breakdown will include $1,647,057.32 to John Bauer and $1,650,643.82 to Rose Bauer for compensatory damages and the remaining $2,602,298.86 to the Gwilliam law firm for attorney fees and costs, according to the terms. It was unclear whether or how the Cardozo Law Offices, also cited as an attorney for the plaintiffs, will receive a cut.
The Bauers signed the settlement agreement on July 23, but news of the deal was first publicized on Tuesday, by their attorneys.
The lawsuit listed the city and officers Chin, Middleton and Rich Trovao as defendants.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the settlement does not require Pleasanton PD to implement policy changes, rather the terms stipulate only that PPD leadership must meet with the Bauers to discuss potential recommendations.