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A Family Called 911 To Help a Suicidal Loved One, They Got a ‘Nightmare a Thousand Times Worse’

It’s an increasingly common dilemma facing the families of citizens in crisis—whether contacting the authorities in the midst of a mental health crisis could cause the situation to get worse, such as in the well-known case of Takar Smith.

11:23 AM PST on December 13, 2023

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)

When Jesse Batten’s girlfriend called 911 on October 4 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, she was desperately seeking help for the 30-year-old R&B music producer.

For about a week, he’d been drinking almost nothing but fifths of vodka. And he wasn’t eating or taking his medication for depression. During this time, he began sending her text messages that were “suicidal in nature,” said a family member, who didn’t feel comfortable having their name appear in this story, during an interview with L.A. TACO last month.

“She made it very clear that” it was a “mental health-related call" and that Jesse “just needed to go to the hospital,” the family member explained.

Police weren’t needed.

Despite their concerns, Jesse’s family tells L.A. TACO that ultimately, the firefighters, police, and medical professionals that they enlisted to help him “failed at every level.”

It’s an increasingly common dilemma facing the families of citizens in crisis—whether contacting the authorities in the midst of a mental health crisis could cause the situation to get worse, such as in the well-known case of Takar Smith.

“We asked for help during a mental health crisis, and they gave us a nightmare a thousand times worse,” Jesse’s family member told L.A. TACO.

‘Bad to Worse’

When paramedics arrived around 3 PM at the North Hollywood house that Jesse was holed up at on October 4, despite being intoxicated to the point of being “completely incoherent,” he came outside and approached the EMT’s “calmly,” according to Jesse’s anonymous family member, who listened to and watched the incident unfold from a doorbell camera while they were out of town.

Minutes later, the family member received a call from one of the EMTs at the scene after they yelled through the doorbell camera to get the emergency responders’ attention.

During the call, the family member “reiterated” that Jesse likely had a “lethal dose” of alcohol in his system and he needed to get to a hospital to safely detox.

Jesse has struggled with alcohol use and depression for years. The family member told L.A. TACO during a November interview.

“This has happened before,” they said.

The last time it happened, Jesse’s blood alcohol level reached .4 percent, or five times the legal limit if you’re driving. 

“That’s considered lethal,” the family member said.

During the October 4 emergency, a Los Angeles firefighter on the scene described Jesse as being “heavily intoxicated” on “alcohol only” in a call to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and confirmed that Jesse was expressing suicidal thoughts. 

“I asked him if he wanted to hurt himself, and he said ‘yes,’” the firefighter explained to a dispatcher. It’s unclear why the firefighter requested the police based on the call.

Los Angeles police officers responded to the scene roughly 15 minutes after Jesse’s girlfriend called 911 at about 3:15 PM. This was right around the same time that Jesse’s relative got off the phone with the EMT, according to body-worn camera footage and call logs from the family member, which were reviewed by L.A. TACO.

“When officers arrived, they saw the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) personnel struggling to control the subject, later identified as 29-year-old Jesse Batten,” the LAPD said in a news release.

Police handcuffed Jesse and put him onto a hospital gurney without any major issues, according to body-worn camera footage and the family member who watched things unfold through a video feed. 

“You can hear him say a couple of times” that he’s willing to go to the hospital, the family member pointed out.

Ten minutes later, while sitting in the driveway (apparently waiting for an ambulance), Jesse becomes angry and lashes out when LAPD officers begin questioning his mental state.

“Get me the fuck out of this car!” Jesse says while thrashing his arms in the gurney.

Moments later, as an ambulance pulls up to the house, veteran LAPD officer Oswaldo Pedemonte grabs Jesse by the neck with his right hand after Jesse spits on the officer.

“Don’t do that, okay?” The officer says sternly as he grabs Jesse’s neck for approximately three seconds.

“Get your hands off of him,” another officer says before Pedemonte loosens his grip.

“Yeah, that’s right. We’re good,” Pedemonte responds before the other officer places a bright green taser on Jesse’s stomach. Pedemonte then walks off to wash his face.

“I just couldn't believe it,” Jesse’s family member said after watching the body-worn camera footage. “I’ve never had to choke or tase him… there were six grown men [there], some of them heavily armed, [Jesse] was semi-incoherent and handcuffed” to a gurney. 

“We were crying out for help, and the LAPD turned it into a bullying incident.”

Afterward, Jesse “was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for alcohol intoxication,” the LAPD said in a news release. 

At 3:55 PM, according to a call log reviewed by L.A. TACO, Jesse’s family member received a call from an EMT, who explained that Jesse was being transported to a hospital five to six minutes away.

Fifteen minutes later, Jesse was OK’d for booking and released from the hospital, according to a medical document signed by a physician at Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital. “Jesse Ranen Batten is medically stable for booking by police,” the hospital release form reads. Based on that timeline, Jesse could have only been at the hospital for five to 10 minutes at most.

“He was never admitted to the hospital. ” Jesse’s family member alleged during a late November interview that he never received any treatment. “This quite literally put his life in danger.”

When asked what, if any, treatment Jesse received at the hospital and what his blood alcohol level was, LAPD spokesperson Captain Kelly Muniz told L.A. TACO, “Media Relations [is] not able to comment on the details you are requesting about medical treatment or blood alcohol level as the release of such information will require a legal review.” 

After being cleared for booking, the situation went from “bad to worse,” the family member recalled.

Jesse’s loved ones had no idea where he was for approximately two days. 

“He was invisible to the system,” Jesse’s family member said. Initially, he didn’t appear in an online inmate database because “no charges had been filed at that point.”

When Jesse’s family pressed the LAPD for more information, they “got all kinds of answers.” One officer reportedly told them that Jesse was in a psych ward in DTLA.

Jesse was located at a Van Nuys courthouse two days after the incident. He left the courthouse “barefoot wearing basketball shorts and a shirt that they gave him.” 

“He looked like hell,” the family member recalled. Afterward, he checked into rehab, where he spent more than a week in detox.

Three weeks after the incident, the Los Angeles City Attorney notified Jesse that a “criminal complaint” against him had been filed, alleging “battery against a peace office,” according to a letter reviewed by L.A. TACO.

A few days after that, the LAPD released body-worn camera footage from the incident.

Jesse first came across the footage after someone sent him a link to a “pro-police account” that reposted it. By then, tens of thousands of people had seen the footage and left insulting comments about him and the incident.

“They do this in the name of transparency,” Jesse’s anonymous family member told us. “But really, it’s just a smear video.” 

This was, in many ways, the exact situation the family was trying to avoid and why they initially resisted calling 911 in the days leading up to the Oct. 4 incident. 

Every year, the LAPD receives thousands of mental health-related calls for service. Due to staffing shortages, the multi-billion dollar department says it does not have enough resources to ensure that mental health teams respond to every mental health-related call for service.

Over the summer, the city council voted to expand the LAPD’s mental health units. 

“Clearly someone needed help, and at every level, they failed,” the family member said during a November interview.

Then, Jesse was summoned to court earlier this month due to a probation violation.

After Jesse’s family member “scrambled” to get him out of rehab two days before the hearing, Jesse appeared in front of a judge who “angrily chastised” him for allegedly “kicking an EMT” before police arrived.

“I never saw any evidence of a kick,” the family member who watched the Oct. 4 incident unfold from a doorbell camera told L.A. TACO earlier this month. “I watched all the interaction with the EMTs live on camera and don’t know what they’re talking about.”

And during the two calls he had with EMTs at the scene, they “never mentioned anything about a kick,” according to the family member.

“The judge didn’t realize how intoxicated and temporarily insane [Jesse] was at the time of the incident or that [Jesse] was denied medical attention and spent two days in a solitary cell with no toilets while he detoxed,” the family member continued. All the judge saw was the police report, the family member said.

By the end of the hearing, the judge revoked Jesse’s credit for time served for a previous alcohol-related offense, required him to complete three months of rehab, and told him “if he ever violated probation again,” he would sentence Jesse to “state prison for years,” according to the family member.

“It was extremely frustrating to watch the judge go after him like that and his attorney to remain silent through the hearing,” the family member said.

“But this is how our justice system works.”

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