Perhaps only in Santa Barbara would the most dangerous inmate in county jail be a vegan restaurant owner, kombucha brewer, and self-described “wantrepreneur.” Despite these comically millennial trappings, Santa Barbara authorities consider Tyler Beerman, the 33-year-old, 190-pound owner of Vegan GreenGo, a serious threat to public safety.
For the last six months, he has been held in county jail in solitary confinement. But even that, it turns out, is not enough. Last week, the county’s counsel’s office sought to get an additional restraining order against Beerman and to increase the security precautions: When Beerman appears in Judge Thomas Anderle’s courtroom early next January to answer charges that he tried to hire various hitmen in county jail to kill an ex-girlfriend, two investigators with the county’s Sheriff’s Office, and a county judge, he will be in chains and handcuffs. Beerman, if found guilty, is looking at 44 years to life behind bars.
Beerman’s attorney, Sandy Horowitz, argues his client needs mental-health treatment, not incarceration. Beerman, he noted, sustained serious brain injury after he rolled his car in a DUI-related accident in 2012. To get off alcohol, Beerman got into kombucha, opening the Funk Zone–based kombucha company Conscious Kombucha in 2013. A few years later, he’d start a vegan Mexican restaurant that served no meat-based lard and non-dairy cheese. After the accident, however, he’s suffered excruciating headaches, serious mood alterations, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his lawyer. But even before the accident, Horowitz said, Beerman suffered mental-health issues; since the accident, his client has been 5150’d — declared an imminent threat to himself or others — at least three times.
Law enforcement officials don’t pretend to know what makes Beerman tick; they only know they don’t want him to explode on innocent bystanders. Though Beerman has never been arrested for any violent crime — or found to be in possession of weapons — his name triggers an officer safety warning for local law enforcement. The case of Lt. Brad Welch, a 20-year veteran with the County Sheriff’s Office, illustrates why.
Welch first met Beerman a few years back when responding to a burglary incident in Carpinteria. Beerman had helped corral the suspect, and the two developed a positive relationship. That went south, however, after Beerman continued to phone an ex-girlfriend who’d taken out a restraining order. She claimed Beerman had been stalking her for two years. Welch claims he repeatedly urged Beerman to back off; he referred Beerman’s case to mental-health experts within the department in hopes of getting him treatment. None of this worked, and eventually Welch found himself forced to arrest Beerman.
Beerman never got over it.
According to Welch’s testimony, Beerman began calling him repeatedly and showed up at Welch’s work, demanding to know why. Beerman was relentless. No matter how often Welch explained, Beerman continued. Eventually Welch felt compelled to take evasive maneuvers while driving from his job to his home on the chance that Beerman was tracking him. He took expensive steps to erase all electronic and social media footprints that could lead Beerman to his home.
But somehow Beerman figured out where Welch lived. Late at night on November 9, 2017, Beerman showed up Welch’s house and began knocking on the door. Why did Welch arrest him? he once again demanded. His new girlfriend was on hand to film what transpired. Some have speculated Beerman was hoping for suicide by cop. Beerman’s father, attorney David K. Beerman, was on hand as well, hoping to persuade authorities to have his son declared 5150 again. It didn’t work out that way. Welch gave his wife a handgun and had her secure their children. He then armed himself and waited for the black and whites to arrive. No one got hurt. Welch was — and remains — seriously spooked. Any suggestion that Beerman could be released on bail — even if a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment was involved—he said, was “insane.”
While Beerman was in jail this April, prosecutor Benjamin Ladinig contended in court papers, he reportedly solicited other inmates to kill his ex-girlfriend and Welch. He allegedly offered up to $40,000 to one inmate if he could arrange for his former girlfriend’s car to blow up when she pumped the brake. If Welch couldn’t be killed the same way, Beerman allegedly suggested the inmate could arrange for two prostitutes to seduce him and then claim rape. He initially tried to have someone blow up the car of Detective Anthony Kouremetis, who had helped work on the stalking case; then he allegedly decided to have Kouremetis’s home burn down with him in it. Another inmate came forward and claimed he’d heard Beerman threatening to rape the daughter of his first attorney. Another inmate disclosed that Beerman said he might need help killing Judge Von T. Nguyen Deroian, who’d presided over one of his stalking hearings. “I want to kill her,” Beerman allegedly said.
In his legal papers, Ladinig cites audio recordings of a wire worn by one of the confidential informants when discussing such plans with Beerman. Ladinig cites a map Beerman drew indicating where his ex-girlfriend lived and where she parked her car. He cites the sophistication with which Beerman allegedly proceeded, devising code names for the parties involved and cash drops. Also charged — as a co-conspirator — was Beerman’s current girlfriend, Gissel Diaz. Her bail was reduced from $1 million to $100,000.
Defense attorney Horowitz — a former prosecutor with the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office — sought to get Beerman released on his own recognizance but came up empty. He cited Beerman’s brain trauma, his mental-health history, and his lack of violence. He argued that the testimony of jailhouse snitches is notoriously unreliable. As for the specific inmates who came forward with damaging testimony about Beerman, he stated, “These are known criminals with long criminal histories and are known liars,” adding, “They are clearly looking for something in return.” Beerman, he added, would be “easy pickings” for seasoned jailhouse cons.
Horowitz said Beerman was willing to check himself into an inpatient facility in Santa Barbara and enroll in all-day therapy five days a week at another. The judge ruled against that option as well, persuaded by Ladinig’s arguments. “Beerman may be one of the most dangerous individuals presently being held in Santa Barbara County Jail,” he stated. “He poses a massive threat to public safety and the sanctity of the criminal justice system.”
Beerman is scheduled to appear before Judge Anderle January 15, 2020, to set the date for his preliminary hearing on murder-for-hire solicitation charges.
In the meantime, Beerman remains in solitary confinement, where he takes a shower two times a week and is separated from the jail population.