UPDATE 9 p.m. Monday: Jonathan Blankenship, the Pismo Beach man found dead in the waters off Shell Beach on Sunday, went missing overnight after running away from officers who were checking on him and his girlfriend because a bar employee reported they were extremely drunk, the Pismo Beach Police Department said Monday.
Although the investigation is ongoing, family members and law enforcement are speculating that he may have fallen off a cliff, or jumped off to escape. In an interview, Detective Steve Weir emphasized that no scenario is conclusive until Thursday’s autopsy determines the cause of death.
At 1:53 a.m. Sunday, an employee at Alex Bar-B-Q on Shell Beach Road summoned officers to deal with a large crowd, according to a Pismo Beach Police Department news release.
An employee told the first officer who arrived that the drunken man and woman had walked down Placentia Avenue and that the pair had been causing problems inside the bar. After the officer found the man and woman along Placentia, the man hid behind a vehicle and then ran away, police said.
The woman, 33-year-old Chelsea Harvey of Hemet, told The Tribune that she and Blankenship, 34, had fled the bar together in fear. She said she asked the bartender to call the police because a man flashed a knife at her and threatened to her that he would use it against Blankenship.
Officers searched the area for about 10 minutes but couldn’t find Blankenship. They arrested Harvey on suspicion of public drunkenness.
At 1:57 a.m., Jonathan Blankenship called his twin brother, Jason Blankenship, who had also been at the bar, Harvey said. Jonathan Blankenship asked his brother to come get him, but before he said where, he quickly said he had to go and hung up.
That was the last anyone heard from him. Jason Blankenship was unavailable for comment Monday.
“We don’t believe there’s a knife-wielding person who chased him off a cliff,” said Weir, who added that there was no reason to believe it was a suicide.
Harvey said that the three had dinner together earlier that evening and had gone to a bar in downtown San Luis Obispo and Harry’s Night Club & Beach Bar in Pismo Beach before arriving at Alex Bar-B-Q.
Harvey said that Jonathan Blankenship had been in good spirits. That contradicts speculation by a police officer at the body’s recovery that the death was a suicide.
“This was a huge, tragic accident,” Harvey said, adding that “Jon was not that familiar with the area” around the cliffs.
Jonathan Blankenship had moved to the Central Coast from Hemet in January. Two paddle boarders discovered his body in the waters off Shell Beach about 11 a.m. Sunday morning.
UPDATE 3 p.m. Monday: Jonathan Blankenship, found dead in the waters off Shell Beach on Sunday, may have been the same man who went missing overnight after running away from officers who were checking on him and a woman after a bar employee had reported they were extremely drunk, the Pismo Beach Police Department said Monday.
Just before 2 a.m. Sunday, an employee at Alex Bar-B-Q on Shell Beach Road summoned officers to deal with a large crowd at the bar, according to a Pismo Beach Police Department news release.
An employee told the first officer who arrived that a man and woman who were extremely drunk had walked away from the bar down Placentia Avenue, and that the pair had been causing problems inside the bar.
After the officer found the man and woman along Placentia, the woman stayed but the man hid behind a vehicle and then ran away, police said.
The woman identified that man only as “John,” according to the news release.
Officers searched the area for about 10 minutes but couldn’t find the man. They arrested the woman on suspicion of public drunkenness.
UPDATE 9:30 a.m. Monday: On Monday morning, Pismo Beach Police Department Detective Steve Weir said: "At this point in the investigation, there is nothing right now to lead us to believe that this is a suicide. However, the investigation is ongoing."
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.
Original story: Two paddle boarders discovered the body of a Pismo Beach man floating in the waters off Shell Beach Sunday morning, according to police.
About 11:20 a.m., police were dispatched to the beach area west of Boeker Avenue to check out the report of a body floating in the water, according to a Pismo Beach Police Department news release.
The paddle boarders brought the man’s body ashore, initially intending to render aid, but they then realized the man was dead.
Onlookers gathered on the cliffs above the beach as a man, who told The Tribune that his brother has been missing since Saturday evening, viewed the body and confirmed its identity.
Police identified the man as Jonathan Blankenship, 34, of Pismo Beach.
His body was recovered from the ocean near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Leeward Avenue in Shell Beach.
A member of the Pismo Beach Police Department at the scene said the death was a suicide.
Pismo Beach police were unable Sunday morning to provide information about how the death was known to be a suicide. But on Sunday afternoon they said that local police and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s-Coroner Office are investigating Blankenship’s death.
Police said no other information was available about the incident as of Sunday.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Tribune has removed the photo that originally accompanied this story because of sensitivity concerns.