A Pismo Beach man who was found dead in the waters off Shell Beach on July 1 died of blunt force trauma, according to county sheriff’s officials.Deputy coroners have ruled Jonathan Blankenship’s death accidental, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said Wednesday.
Blankenship, 34, who had moved to the Central Coast from Hemet in January, went missing after running away from Pismo Beach police officers who were checking on him and his girlfriend after a local bar employee reported they were “extremely” drunk.
At 1:53 a.m., an employee at Alex Bar-B-Q on Shell Beach Road summoned officers to deal with a large crowd, according to Pismo Beach police.
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 Blankenship and his girlfriend along Placentia, Blankenship hid behind a vehicle and then ran away, police said.
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The woman, 33-year-old Chelsea Harvey of Hemet, told The Tribune that she and Blankenship 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 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., 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.
Two paddle boarders discovered his body in the waters off Shell Beach about 11 a.m. Sunday.
As the investigation progressed, family members and law enforcement speculated that he may have fallen off a cliff or jumped off to escape.
He fell about 30 to 35 feet, Cipolla said.
The autopsy results concluded that Jonathan Blankenship had died of “an accelerated descent down the cliff causing blunt force trauma,” Pismo Beach Police Sgt. Steve Weir said.