Authorities Investigating Homeless Man’s Death

Half Brain’ Baumann Died in Custody After ‘Medical Event’

Thursday, April 4, 2013
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Investigators with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department are looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of James Lawrence Baumann, a jovial, belligerent, mentally ill 51-year-old homeless man known to friends on the streets as “Half Brain” because of a brain injury he’d sustained earlier in life. He collapsed while being booked into County Jail last Saturday and never recovered. Medical authorities withdrew life support four days later. An autopsy has been performed on Baumann, who had a serious history of substance abuse and mental illness, but the results will not be available for several weeks.

James Lawrence Baumann
Click to enlarge photo


James Lawrence Baumann

Less than an hour prior to his collapse, Baumann had been subdued by five Santa Barbara police officers at Alameda Park after resisting arrest on misdemeanor battery charges. According to police, Baumann came to their attention that day after a man complained he’d been struck by Baumann while walking down the street with a female companion. Baumann resisted arrest actively and vigorously, according to police spokesperson Sergeant Riley Harwood, “kicking and squirming.” Harwood added, “He’s not a small man.” Baumann is listed as 6′4″ and weighing 240 pounds. He’s well-known to Santa Barbara cops, who had booked him into County Jail more than 60 times since 2002.

Booking reports indicate this may have been the last time Baumann resisted arrest, but it was hardly the first. Harwood stated there was no indication in the 23-page incident report that Baumann was tased, though one officer did pull his Taser out. Nor did the report indicate any blows had been delivered, Harwood said, or that any variant of the chokehold had been deployed. Harwood characterized the force used against Baumann as “grappling.” No officers reported any injuries in the incident. Once delivered to jail for processing, Baumann reportedly resisted again. It remains uncertain what steps Sheriff’s deputies took to subdue Baumann. Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover said she could not comment pending the conclusion of the investigation. She did say that Baumann experienced a “medical event” prior to being booked.

Who Baumann was before he hit the streets of Santa Barbara ​— ​or how he got here ​— ​remains something of a mystery. According to one friend, Baumann graduated from high school in Reseda, worked as a private pilot, but sustained a serious brain injury while being ejected from a plane or helicopter. “He was a big ham,” she said, a big kid. “He told good jokes, always clean. But he liked his eight balls.” Others said Baumann had served in the armed forces, where he reportedly had been shot in the head. When it came to drugs, there were few he did not abuse. In addition, he was a serious diabetic. From 2005 to 2007, Baumann was commonly found at the Casa Esperanza shelter, where he fluctuated between manic joviality and a morose moodiness.

While Baumann was frequently cited for drug and alcohol violations, many of the citations against him involved misdemeanor battery charges. It remains unclear what Baumann’s precise psychological condition was, but for a while he’d reportedly been seeing county mental health workers and frequently ate lunch at the mental health complex located by Garden and Cota streets. Recent police reports suggest Baumann was growing increasingly agitated and unhinged in the last four weeks, during which time he’d been booked into jail no less than four times.

On March 16, he was arrested on the 800 block of State Street for vandalizing a trash receptacle with a knife. Officers involved in that incident noted Baumann’s “egregious mood swings,” “unpredictability,” and “impulsivity.” One specifically noted that Baumann appeared to present a danger “to himself or to others.” Typically, that’s the legal finding needed to place an individual in a three-day involuntary “5150” hold in the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility, or PHF Unit.

As a matter of policy, Santa Barbara cops don’t make 5150 determinations, leaving that responsibility to county mental health workers. As a matter of practice, city cops typically seek 5150 holds in the PHF Unit only when a subject seems suicidal; people inclined to harm others are taken instead to County Jail. As a matter of practicality, the county’s PHF Unit is frequently so full that individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others are sent to facilities in Ventura County.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:44 a.m.

..."Booking reports indicate this may have been the last time Baumann resisted arrest"...

With his death, I doubt the "may have been the last time" is necessary or accurate unless Nick is a over the top fan of "The Walking Dead".

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

He was a good friend of mine..I didn't realize who he was till I saw his picture. Rest in Peace James maybe God will punish your killers if your death was intentional.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So it sounds like SBPD and County mental health neglected assessment and treatment of James' mental illness 4 times in the month prior to his death, as well as the "medical event" prior to his booking. It would be interesting to see the video of his county jail processing, too late for James, hopefully his death can help others in the future. Our wars in the middle east are currently turning functional US troops, our teenagers and men and women in their 20's, who are allegedly fighting to protect the US from annihilation by terrorists, into the non-functional traumatized mentally ill at a record level. Regardless of the connection between military service and mental health in James' life, we're creating many more damaged people daily and have a critical need to try to heal them, rather than using the "legal justice" solution to destroy them.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 12:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

he was a good man and a lover of mine hundreds no doubt will miss you I made this of us in 2010

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I find it suspicious that the Sheriff's Department would wait an entire week to release this information. Seems like they're trying to cover something up.

ooshea (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 1:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am a medical doctor. It states he was a diabetic. He was not taking care of his health. He may have been using drugs.

Diabetes in a fifty-something man is complicated by atherosclerotic narrowing and kidney compromise among other things.

He likely died of natural causes and they await the toxicology report which can take a couple of weeks. He most likely died due to cardiac arythmia or myocardial infarction due to his uncontrolled diabetes.

No conspiracy or cover up. Just a common thing happening, (as far as a diabetic dying.

sez_me (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

you know the cops beat him to death unless your ignorant

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We don't know anything other than the information provided. If he had existing medical conditions, even a scuffle that most of us would survive without incident could have caused heart failure.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If avolition is correct there must be a lot of ignorant people in this town, myself included.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 4:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am mental and I got beat up plenty by the cops

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 6:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am mentally ill woman One day I thought I was In a Movie I got arrested and beat and kept in isolation 3 days getting raped and a broken ankle people don't be so ignorant

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is the SBPL still open?

zappa (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 8:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 8:26 p.m.

I heard things but your right I don't know but suspect..

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 8:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)


You may be correct from a generalized viewpoint of likely co-morbidities that this man may have suffered from with diabetes. But you're not *his* doctor and I think it's a bit irresponsible for any of us (medical training or otherwise) to comment on how he may have died; we simply don't know the circumstances and he may or may not have been in the kind of shape that he HAD to die that day.

Native1 (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice video avolition. Here's a better one for you....

How many other crazy fantasies have you had about being arrested.

Validated (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you die I die that the way it ends

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 2 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Jimmy , Guy , Joe, Brad "can you spare 30 thousand dolallrs" my bros Im getting there as fast as I can

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 2:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.

Of course something happened before the Medical Event...

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 1:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Independent: I see you've been busy deleting comments you find offensive but clearly you are selective in your enforcement of your own rules. I don't know what Italiansurg said, but "avolition" is clearly making a mockery of of this man's death, yet you let the comments stand. Why?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 4:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

end of thread.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 4:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What's the authorities to investigate... Another tourist unfriendly casualty in a low density combat zone? I'm sure the ride along media machine will be right on top of that.

BBOY (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 4:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am in no way mocking my lovers death

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 5:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jimmy was a kind man and will be missed dearly by at least the 3000 that knew him here my deepest regards of sympathy to Jimmy's family.

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 5:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Because it was her old man Bill..They have compassion at the Independant.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't be sheeplepeople he wasn't diabetic it is a media cover up

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 6:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, this is too weird even for me. I do hope however, that the truth comes out about why he died, and my condolences to whoever he left behind.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 7:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"it is a media cover up"

Yeah because the local media have a lot to gain from this poor man's demise. Get a grip.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 8:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Disposable People
Like me see most people don't
have any idea about mental illness

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 10:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nobody is disposable.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 12:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't know how to get a grip my Doctor brought me my add meds

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 7, 2013 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Will that picture of his unusually fat face makes him look diabetic I think he was..I'd like to know what kind of drugs he did..I heard quite a few combative arrests that week..Since then it seems like there have been more than the regular amount of medical calls at the County Jail.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Was the "medical event" blunt force trauma?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 9:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I can't stop crying if I would have married Jimmy Baumann like he wanted he would still be alive Rest in peace sorry i rejected you when your soul passed through mine

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 11:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So you suggest denying people medical care based on ability to pay? There's thousands of instances of people like the deceased who did indeed turn their lives around, for the good of themselves and their community. No wonder why there's a push for single payer option like they have civilized countries, nobody is disposable.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 5:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

the cops killed him

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 8, 2013 at 9:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

*cue "Twilight Zone" theme music*

realitycheck447 (anonymous profile)
April 17, 2013 at 12:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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