Six weeks after their 25-year-old son Jacob was shot dead by a San Diego police officer, Rick and Lynne Faust got a bill for $20,000 from Scripps Mercy Hospital for three minutes of trauma care that held no hope of saving him. Accompanying the bill was a multi-page report that explained, in abstruse medical lingo, how and why Jacob died.
Despite gentle protests from Rick, who had stuffed the report back in its envelope, Lynne, a former medical transcriber, needed to see it. Flipping through the pages, she pieced together the final few minutes of her son's life: at 1:53 a.m. he had a pulse of 36; at 1:55 a.m., his pulse was 18. He was dead a minute later, she figures. The report said he arrived at Scripps at 2:08 a.m. in PEA: “pulseless electrical activity,” she says, “basically dead.” Her blue eyes turn glassy as she goes over the doctor's notes. Periodically, she looks over at Rick, “It says here four gunshot wounds, not three,” she points out, studying an anatomical diagram.
It's too much for Rick. “I've gotta paint,” he mumbles and turns back to the 4-by-5-foot canvas that divides what would normally be a small dining area from the rest of the couple's cozy, art-filled loft. On the canvas, his latest painting is about halfway done. It shows a grinning Jacob, hunched over a piano, a cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth, giving his audience a sly sideways glance. Next to the piano, a couple dances a tango. The Jacob in the painting is based on a photograph the Fausts' daughter Amy snapped of her older brother sitting at Cole Porter's piano in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, just before a guard chased them away.
Before Jacob's death, Rick, a former high-school art teacher, illustrated children's books and painted mostly landscapes. For Jacob's memorial service, he painted a true-to-life portrait of his son. In the upper corner of the painting is a cartoonish little figure-Jacob in his favorite vintage overcoat and hat, carrying his dad's old leather artist's satchel, climbing a flight of stairs. The paintings that followed, in the weeks since Jacob died, are vivid caricatures of wild 1930s street-corner jazz clubs, the kind of places Rick's anachronistic son would have been drawn to. Jacob is in every painting, either sitting at a piano in one of the clubs or standing on a city street, leaning up against a wrought-iron streetlamp, his ubiquitous trench coat tightly belted, a newsboy cap pulled over his eyes. He's playing an accordion like he had done so many times out on the sidewalk in front of his parents' loft.
Jacob's death “changed my whole style,” Rick says. “I'll probably be painting like this for the rest of my life.”
Rick was painting in the early morning of April 4, just before 2 a.m., when he heard sirens and noticed the flashing lights from emergency vehicles. He looked out of the loft's second floor balcony and watched as police cordoned off the street.
It would be another six hours-just after 8 a.m.-when officers buzzed the building's intercom to tell the Fausts that they needed to speak with them.
They didn't immediately tell Lynne and Rick what had happened, but instead began asking questions about Jacob-where he lived, who his friends were.
Lynne asked if Jacob was in trouble. Yes, they told her, and it was serious.
A detective told the Fausts that Jacob had made an illegal left turn onto Fourth Avenue from Broadway and was stopped by a police officer. They told her he was driving on a suspended license from a DUI arrest in February. Lynne didn't know about the suspended license, she told them, but she did know that Jacob had filed a complaint with the police department's Internal Affairs unit over the arrest and that he'd twice spoken with an investigating officer. (The city attorney's office denied CityBeat's request to see a copy of the complaint.)
The detective told Lynne and Rick that Jacob had refused to get out of his van. Lynne knew where the story was going. She stopped him and asked whether Jacob had been shot. The detective told her yes, and he didn't make it.
Rick lost his composure. Jacob's sister Amy, who works across the street from her parents loft, arrived that morning like she usually did right before going to work to get breakfast. She could hear her dad yelling as she walked up the stairs.
“Jake's dead,” he said to her when she walked through the door.
Lynne pressed on with questions, compelled by a sense of powerlessness-nothing she did at that point was going to change what had happened. The only way to regain control was to get an answer to every question she could muster.
She wanted to know where it had happened. One of the detectives motioned over toward Fourth Avenue. They told her they had recovered a toy gun from the back of Jacob's van. The orange band around the tip of the gun's barrel, meant to distinguish a toy gun from a real gun, had been painted black, they said.
Lynne assumed it was a stage prop. Jacob and his friends put on vaudeville-type shows with comedy sketches and music under the name the Carnival Barkers. His van, always a mess, still had props in it from a show a couple of weeks back.
A day after the shooting, San Diego Police Capt. Jim McGinley, who arrived at the scene after Jacob was shot, gave a press conference where he displayed a photo lineup of six guns and asked reporters to try to pick out the fake from six chrome handguns.
Lynne says she doesn't recall the police telling her that Jacob had, at any point, picked up the fake gun.
“I just remember them saying that he was resisting the officer, he wouldn't get out of the vehicle and he went to make a move and they thought he was reaching for something-that it was too dark to see and things happened too quickly. Somehow they translated that to the media as him waving a gun at them, but he didn't do that. That's not the story they told us.”
Nor does she remember being told that police had tried to subdue him with pepper spray or that he'd been shot multiple times. Those things came out in the news, each account a little different.
McGinley wasn't there when the Fausts were informed about Jacob's death, so he can't confirm what they were told. What McGinley was told by the two officers is that Jacob became defensive and turned up his car stereo when one of the officers told him that they'd have to impound his car because he was driving on a suspended license. While that officer talked to Jacob, the other, 11-year veteran Stephen Holliday, shone his flashlight into the van's backseat and spotted what looked like a chrome handgun in the back pocket of the passenger seat. Holliday alerted the other officer, who told Jacob to get out of the car. The young man refused, McGinley said, so the officer sprayed him with pepper spray. At that point, Holliday said he saw Jacob reach for the gun and bring his right arm over the passenger seat. As he did, Holliday fired.
According to an autopsy report, Jacob was hit three times-once through the back of the neck and once through his upper arm. A third bullet pierced both lungs and a main artery to his heart. The entire incident happened in less than a half-hour. Jacob's car was stopped at 1:45 a.m. By at least 1:53 a.m. he had been shot, according to paramedic reports. At 2:11 a.m. he was pronounced dead. At some point between the time he was shot and when the ambulance arrived at 2:05 a.m., someone, presumably a police officer, snapped a photo of a dying Jacob lying on the sidewalk next to his van. That was the photo the medical examiner showed to Rick to get a positive identification. Lynne can't believe that would be considered standard procedure. “They shot him and let him bleed to death while they took pictures?”
Two of the bullets that hit Jacob were traveling left to right, a trajectory that makes sense given police officials have said Holliday was standing to the left and just behind Jacob. But the bullet that killed him was traveling right to left and at an upward, 30-degree angle, entering Jacob's back and exiting the front of his chest, according to the medical examiner's report.
Lynne's studied the report like she studied the hospital records. For her, the trajectory of that final bullet is one more thing about the shooting that doesn't make sense.
The SDPD's McGinley did not return a follow-up phone call by press time seeking comment on autopsy findings and the photo.
Jacob's uncle, Kevin Faust, took photos of the van after police released it. One photo of the passenger seat-back pocket, where Holliday says he spotted the gun, shows a Pez dispenser, a policewoman character, still in its package, the top half of which is poking out from the pocket. “Wouldn't it have fallen into the pouch,” Rick wants to know, if Jacob had grabbed for an object right next to it?
The Fausts have hung a white banner from their balcony with the words “The SDPD murdered my son” spray-painted in red. It hasn't attracted much attention, Lynne said, other than some stares and one late-night serenade from a stranger.
In the days following the shooting, letters appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune asserting, basically, that Jacob deserved what he got-if you're confronted by police, don't grab a gun, the letters said. “It pains me to think that one of our police officers could have been killed if not for the quick actions of his partner in shooting Faust first,” read one letter.
The Fausts have looked for witnesses- people staying at the Golden West Hotel, or someone working at one of the nearby bars who might have seen something. No one who saw the shooting has come forward. The best Jacob's friends and family can do is try to reconcile the person they knew with the person police say they encountered.
“He wasn't physcially threatening; he wasn't in your face at all,” said Jacob's long-time friend and some-time swing-dance partner Krista Hattemer.
He was the young man who volunteered time in high school manning a suicide hotline, Lynne said. He gave the benediction at his graduation from Horizon Christian High School where he won a leadership award. Jacob loved to debate politics and had strong opinions, his friends say, but he was never hostile.
“He understood why things where happening and how he could change it,” said Jorge Tellaeche, who attended Horizon Christian High School with Jacob. “He was very intelligent, very precise.”
A self-taught musician, Jacob played piano, accordion, violin and guitar. His prized possession was a 1909 pump organ. He was a talented artist and loved to swing dance.
He had nearly completed a film project with his friend Erik Leiser, a student at California Institute for the Arts in Valencia. The project had gone from the two shooting random digital video six years prior to becoming a feature-length film, a modern-day take on the 16th-century legend of Dr. Johann Faust, who made a pact with the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge. Jacob wrote the film's script as well as the musical score. (Rick cautioned that the film is fiction; Jacob didn't identify with the Faust character beyond his surname.)
In the film, Jacob plays a funeral director, a job he held in real life that he took over from Leiser when Leiser went off to school. In one scene from the film, Jacob described what drew him to that line of work. “It's amazing,” he said, “you get a chance to help and heal the bereaved who've been hurt by the passing of someone dear to them, a family member or a friend. Sometimes when someone dies they have no one else that can remember them. As a funeral director, I'm there to witness this. It almost seems as though I was their only friend.”
Lynne remembers a time Jacob came home from work and told her about a service he did for a guy who had no one there to mourn him. Lynne asked him how he handled it. “I just stood there with him, talked to him,” Jacob told her.
On a tribute page set up for Jacob on the swing-dance website jivejunction.com, several letters posted there reach out to his sister Amy, who began tagging along with Jacob to swing-dance clubs when she was 15-people thought the well-dressed duo were a couple and much older than they actually were. The two were inseparable.
“Amy, I know that you have died inside,” reads one of the letters.
Amy's frustrated over the police and media's one-dimensional portrayal of her brother, putting whatever happened that night into a pat, predictable story.
“Those people don't know Jacob,” she said. “But every single person, all our family and friends know how bright, how smart he was, and that he wouldn't do something as ridiculous as wave a toy gun around at police officers.”
Upset by what she saw in those letters to the editor, Lynne composed a letter to Jacob and posted it on the remembrance page.
“There are no words within me to convey how empty life will be without you. To never be able to touch your beautiful smiling face or look into your kind sparkling eyes, to never again hear your gentle, compassionate voice whisper, ‘I love you, Ma,' or feel your arms around me holding me close to your heart. To know that your magical laughter has been silenced forever and that your hands will never make the piano sing again with your amazing compositions, that your pen will never move with the fascinating words, music, and power that it once did, to never see the slow nod of your head with that knowing sideways glance of understanding in your eyes.... The loss is incalculable, beyond what I can describe or cry out, beyond what my heart can hold or bear.
They do not know that you were the gentlest of all souls, the very kindness in this world, the heart of compassion and empathy for all the suffering that you saw.”
On the night he died, Jacob was putting up fliers for a show at the Kensington Club where the Carnival Barkers were going to play on April 22.
Patrick Sheehy, a producer with Fox 6 TV, is, so far, the last person Lynne and Rick know of to have seen Jacob alive. Sheehy was sitting with a friend at a table at the Live Wire bar in North Park when he spotted Jacob coming in and walking over to the bar's corkboard to pin up a flier. He was about to leave when Sheehy called him over to join them. Jacob ordered one beer, a Pabst Blue Ribbon, Sheehy remembers, and gave the bartender $5. Sheehy later told Jacob's parents about the generous tip; Rick appreciated this small detail-Jacob, he said, was known to be generous with his money.
They talked a little about politics, but mostly about music-the conversation happened in the time it takes to slowly drink one beer, Sheehy said. They left the bar around 1 a.m.; Jacob got his in van and told Sheehy he was going to stop by a couple of other bars, North Park's Scolari's Office and maybe the Whistlestop in South Park, to drop off more fliers and then head home.
“I said, ‘Cool, man, I'll talk to you later,'” Sheehy remembers, “because I was sure I'd run into him before the show on the 22nd.”
The next morning, Sheehy was in the Fox news control room working on graphics for the morning newscast when he heard a report that someone named Jacob Faust had been shot in the Gaslamp. Sheehy, had known Jacob for a year, but couldn't remember his last name. “I was like, it can't be the same Jacob-I mean, how could it?”
Still, something compelled him to call his friend Ryan, the Carnival Barkers' drummer and a close friend of Jacob's. “And he was crying, and I thought, “Oh man, it is him.”
Sheehy went back to the Live Wire the next day and took down the flyer Jacob had put up and gave it to Lynne and Rick.
The toxicology report from Jacob's autopsy listed his blood-alcohol level at .06 (the legal limit is .08) and found an amount of marijuana in his bloodstream indicating that he had smoked a joint a couple of hours before he died. Sheehy insists that Jacob was fine when he saw him. “In no way, shape or form was he impaired,” he said. “He drank one beer, gave the guy five bucks and we all went home.”
Word of Jacob's death spread quickly. Tellaeche, Jacob's high-school friend, got a phone call asking if he was watching the news-the friend on the other end wanted to know if the guy who had been shot was the same Jacob that Tellaeche knew. He turned on his computer and found six e-mails asking the same thing. He called Lynne and could tell by the way she answered the phone that it was Jacob who'd been killed. “This isn't true, this isn't Jake,” he recalled thinking. “It didn't make sense.”
Leiser, Jacob's film-project partner, had been looking for Jacob that Sunday night. He'd driven down from L.A. to bring Jacob a tape of part of the film. The tape was a peace offering, he said, because the two had had an argument a few days earlier. Leiser walked around The Gaslamp and over by the Fausts' loft. Shortly after midnight, he gave up and headed back to L.A. The next day at school a friend came up to him looking worried and told him Jacob was dead. It took a day for Leiser to process what had happened, he said.
At her parents loft on a recent afternoon, Amy invites visitors to watch the preview of Jacob's film. It's a hodge-podge of scenes that Leiser quickly threw together, but for Amy it's a chance to make her brother real to people who've never met him. When the film starts, Amy stares at the screen, fixated. She and Rick still laugh at scenes they've watched many times-Jacob doing his Buster Keaton impersonation while running up a flight of stairs or him stumbling up a hill with an open umbrella in his hand. The last scenes of the clip are eerily prescient-it's Jacob standing in the doorway of a brightly lit white room. He pauses, looks around and crosses the threshold.
“That part kills me, kills me,” Rick says before turning back to his painting.
Jacob was buried at Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita, where he had worked as a funeral director. A former Glen Abbey co-worker and friend picked Jacob up from the morgue and prepared his body. At the memorial service on April 11, more people packed into Glen Abbey's chapel than it could hold, and staff had to set up a PA system outside for the overflow crowd.
Jacob's sketches and writing adorned the program for his memorial service.
“It has been a frightfully beautiful experience, living and learning,” reads an excerpt from the program. “With much wisdom comes much sorrow, yet it is vital to cling to this wisdom in order to survive.”
After the service, a few people approached Amy to tell her they'd only recently met Jacob, but had felt drawn to him. Krista Hattemer knows what that means. Hattemer helped organize a tribute show for Jacob, held at the Casbah May 1. The venue was filled almost to capacity.
“You were instantly touched by Jake,” Hattemer said. “He made a lasting impression. If you met him one time in your life or if you've known him your whole life, Jake was indelible.”
The Faust family plans to file a formal complaint with the police department on May 23, followed by a gathering near police headquarters at 14th Street and Broadway at 11 a.m. On the law-enforcement side, both the police department and the district attorney will investigate the shooting to rule whether it was justified-a process that will take three to six months.
On May 20, Leiser will screen the film he and Jacob worked on, titled Faustbook for now, at Cal Arts at noon. Leiser's brother Jeffrey said they're hoping to set up a screening in San Diego in the next few weeks. After the footage he used for the final edit of the film, Erik still has more than 80 hours of tape left. He said he'd like to use it to make a documentary about his friend. He feels compelled to, remembering something he once told Jacob:
“I'm going to film you for your entire life, all the way to the end.
“I guess I did,” he said.