UCSB's Campus Point | Credit: Courtesy

Nearly a week after 52-year-old UCSB staff member Geoff Jewel died near the base of the Campus Point bluffs, Santa Barbara authorities remain especially tight-lipped about what they themselves have described as the “suspicious” circumstances surrounding his death.

Jewel, a help desk manager at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, was found unconscious at around 5:15 p.m. last Thursday by UCPD officers responding to calls of a fight. The officers attempted to revive him, but Jewel was declared dead at the scene. 

Authorities have confirmed Jewel was walking in the Campus Point area with his wife and their dog when he got into an altercation with another man. Some people had publicly speculated that the man may have pushed Jewel off of the bluffs onto the beach below, but officials have not corroborated those reports. The unidentified man was initially detained as a “person of interest” but later released.

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Sources close to Jewel, however, recently informed the Independent that he in fact died of a heart attack directly on the beach during the confrontation with the person of interest, whom authorities declined to charge with a crime in connection with Jewel’s death. The UCPD did not respond to requests for comment. No other arrests have been made. 

“UCPD will continue working closely with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and Santa Barbara County Sheriff/Coroner in this suspicious death,” said UCPD’s Lt. David Millard said. Those with information on the case are asked to call (805) 893-3446.

“Geoff’s tragic death is a devastating loss to all of us who had the joy of working with him for over a decade at the Bren School,” said Bren School Dean Steven Gaines in a prepared statement. Gaines called Jewel a “gracious soul” and “enthusiastic naturalist.” “We will miss him immensely.” The Channel Islands Restoration group, to which Jewel lent much of his time, said his death left them “shocked and saddened.”

Before Bren, Jewel had worked as a computer network specialist elsewhere at UCSB and had been with the university since 1996, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was a volunteer with the college’s Adventure Program, leading kayaking, backpacking, and mountaineering trips. In 2017, he was recognized for keeping UCSB’s servers online during the Thomas Fire.

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