The coroner’s report filed for James Lawrence Baumann — a 51-year-old, mentally ill homeless man who was well acquainted with law enforcement — determined the cause of death to be “excited delirium syndrome” due to illicit drug use. Baumann became unresponsive while resisting deputies as he was being booked in the Santa Barbara County Jail last March, and died four days later in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The final coroner’s report ends the internal investigation about Baumann’s sudden loss of consciousness while he was being taken into custody.
The incident began on March 23, when Santa Barbara police officers responded to a complaint at Alameda Park. The six-foot-four-inch, 240-pound man had reportedly attempted to grab those nearby while claiming he had a gun.
Five officers were required to detain Baumann with two hand-cuffs and a hobbler — a device used to prevent movement of subject’s legs — after he resisted arrest, tried to pull his arms free, and kicked officers with his feet. The report indicated that Baumann acted first “fidgety,” “agitated,” “confused,” “incoherent,” and later “combative.”
Once the profusely sweating Baumann arrived at the County Jail, the hobble was removed from his legs and he was escorted toward the building. The report states that Baumann “planted his feet,” pushed back with his body, and refused to go inside the jail. He dropped to his knees and then to his stomach on “his own accord.” The report stated he was yelling, “They are trying to kill me,” “You are going to hell,” and “I can’t breathe.”
Still in the prone position, the report stated, Baumann continued to be resistive and attempted to grab one of the custody deputy’s hands while kicking his feet. Deputies secured Baumann’s legs into a “figure four hold,” a technique known as “grappling.” Unable to maintain hold of Baumann’s legs, additional deputies assisted.
The report explains that deputies did not have their knees on the decedent’s back, but that they were “just maintaining control of his arms with the inside of their legs as they squatted on opposite sides of his upper torso” as he continued to be combative. During this time, deputies requested jail medical staff who tried to talk with the Baumann, but he began spitting blood from his mouth. Medical staff requested Baumann be lifted to an upright position to evaluate him. As they were moving him, Baumann stopped resisting and felt limp. A “sternum rub” was performed, but was unsuccessful. At this point, medical staff began CPR and called for paramedics.
The paramedics were able to restore his pulse, which had briefly stopped. He was transported to Cottage Hospital and taken to the intensive care unit, where he remained unresponsive. He died four days later after physicians withdrew life support when it was determined he would no longer have a quality of life without it.
Medical staff later reported that it was difficult to check Baumann because he was combative with deputies and “tremendously strong.” Medical staff also noted that the decedent’s head was to the side while he was in the prone position and did not recall him ever being “face down.” A surveillance camera caught portions of the incident on video and confirmed Baumann’s resistance as deputies tried to talk with him and maintain control of him.
Baumann had previously been booked more than 60 times into the County Jail since 2002. The coroner’s report stated that Baumann sustained “only minor abrasions.” The report did not indicate that any excessive use of force contributed to his medical emergency.
The toxicology report concluded that amphetamine, caffeine, and nicotine were found in Baumann’s system, while the coroner’s office determined that Baumann’s medical history is consistent with excited delirium, which can lead to death after an onset of bizarre and aggressive behavior, panic, and paranoia. He also suffered from cardiac disease, chronic alcohol abuse, and brain damage. The report noted Baumann had been previously diagnosed with chronic back pain, Type 2 diabetes, ADHD, decreased mental function, Hepatitis C, and hypertriglyceridemia.
Baumann is survived by his brother, father, and a 16-year-old daughter who is in foster care and was unable to be located.