The arrest last week of a Nassau County firefighter accused of attempted armed robbery and putting several people in fear at a Clay County hotel wasn't his first encounter with law enforcement, the News4Jax I-TEAM learned.
Brian Bausch, a firefighter engineer with the Nassau County Fire-Rescue, was arrested early Friday on multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and armed robbery, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office report.
Leroy McCormick told News4Jax that he had a frightening Thursday night encounter with Bausch at the Stay Suites hotel on Wells Road, just east of the Orange Park Mall.
"He had a pistol. He put it to my face and asked me for my money," McCormick said.
Clay County deputies eventually arrested Bausch, 41, at gunpoint outside McCormick’s door. Bausch now faces multiple felonies involving a deadly weapon. And the I-TEAM discovered this isn’t the first time he’s faced similar charges.
"Three has been a plethora of issued plaguing this individual that has followed him throughout his career," News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said.
According to 2016 court documents, Bausch was arrested by Neptune Beach police, accused of pointing a gun at three neighbors inside his apartment complex. Police noted in the arrest report that while Bausch was in custody, he used racial slurs when referring to the three alleged victims and attempted suicide in the back of the patrol car by trying to strangle himself with the seat belt. When investigators searched his apartment, they said they found a stockpile of handguns, rifles, ammunition and tactical gear, which raised red flags because Bausch lived so close to three schools. The report stated that at police headquarters, he asked an officer to shoot him in the head.
At the time of his 2016 arrest, Bausch was an eight-year veteran firefighter with St. Johns County Fire-Rescue. But documents show he was on administrative leave at the time of his arrest following what was described as erratic and troublesome behavior that led to him being held under the Baker Act for making comments to a co-worker about ending his life.
Documents also show the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office had previously put out a "be on the lookout," or BOLO, for Bausch after learning about disturbing social media comments toward law enforcement, his fire department and co-workers. But by the time Bausch’s case went to court, all but one of the charges against him were dropped.
In that 2016 case, he pleaded no contest to illegal exhibition of a weapon and was given probation. He completed the terms of the probation and adjudication was withheld. The terms included mental health evaluation, anger management, forfeiture of his concealed carry permit and no possession of firearms. He resigned from St. Johns County Fire-Rescue. Months later, Bausch was hired by Nassau County Fire-Rescue. But the I-TEAM questioned how that happened, even though previous felony charges were dropped and Bausch received an adjudication withheld on the weapons charge.
"All that stuff is still on record, which should have been worthy of consideration by the department trying to hire this individual, looking at the past," Jefferson said.
Jefferson also said government agencies strongly consider a person’s mental history during the hiring process. It’s unclear if any of this showed up on the radar of the Nassau County human resources department.
"Having been a recruiter for a governmental agency and knowing what the hiring process is, I know that would be a person we would strongly not consider taking on," Jefferson said.
The Nassau County human resources office told the I-TEAM that it did conduct a background check on Bausch. But it's unclear what showed up and it's also unclear what conversations the hiring manager had with Bausch.
A chief with Nassau County Fire-Rescue told News4Jax that Bausch has been employed with the agency for just over two years. The chief said the agency was notified Friday morning of Basuch's arrest in connection with the Thursday evening incident and he was placed on paid administrative leave.
As of Tuesday, Basuch remained on administrative leave and was still in custody on $250,000 bond.