A Malibu security guard died on the job. Questions remain

Inge Baumbach didn’t like flowers from his garden.

It was in his nature to protect everyone and everything in his life, including the plants in his garden. His fiancée at the time will not be forgotten when he gave her a handful of flowers.

“I never asked him, but he gave me cut flowers and he thought it was awful,” recalled SaraLynn Mandel. “I think that was the cutest thing.”

Mandel and Baumbach never married, but they have remained close over the years. Then, in March, his body was found face down in a Malibu parking lot. Mandel doesn’t know how he died. Police officials have released few details.

Mandel struggles for answers. She is the closest thing Baumbach had to his family in the United States.

Baumbach was a native Swede who fell in love with Southern California’s weather upon arrival in 1993. He later went into business for himself as a landscape architect and benefited from the perennial warmth of the Golden State.

Mandel recalled their life together, how he helped raise their two sons, who are now grown, the time they lived on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, how he always built a new fence when they moved into a new one moved home.

He helped her through a divorce and she helped him become an American citizen.

Photo by SaraLynn Mandel and Inge Baumbach.

SaraLynn Mandel and her former fiancee Inge Baumbach.

(SaraLynn Mandel)

Three months ago, Baumbach got ready at his apartment in Venice and headed to Trancas Canyon Nursery. The garden shop is located at the back of a mall with rustic barn-style storefronts, a Starbucks, a market and a modest courtyard just off the Pacific Coast Highway.

He had no plans to buy gardening tools or plants, but would instead stay at the property as a security guard.

It was March 28th, his 58thth Birthday.

The next morning, a daycare worker found Baumbach lying face down in the parking lot. He was pronounced dead by emergency officials, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The county coroner recorded his death as the day his body was discovered.

Mandel wonders if he actually died alone on his birthday when attacked or stumbled and fell.

“There’s just so many scenarios out there, but I think it’s safe to say we won’t know. And that’s, I was trying to think, is that good or bad?” asked Mandel. “He died at work trying to protect people.”

Although born on the Swedish island of Gotland, Baumbach was an uncompromising American. He boasted that he was from Viking land, but declared his love for his adopted homeland of California.

His son Mathias Johansson remembers another father in California. He and his younger brother Oliver visited Baumbach from Sweden and noticed how much calmer their father seemed.

“Even as a kid I could tell he was happier in the US,” Johansson said.

SaraLynn Mandel is holding a photo of Inge Baumbach.

SaraLynn Mandel holds a photo of Inge Baumbach from the time they met. Baumbach helped raise their two sons, who are now adults.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

“He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was always willing to help those who needed it, even when he was struggling himself,” Johansson said in a phone interview from Lund, Sweden. “Even if he felt down at times, he tried to make you happy, and he did that for strangers too, not just family.”

Baumbach did not often call in sick for work and often covered shifts for his employees. The Swedish army veteran enjoyed working as a security officer in the US because it was the closest thing to his career as a police officer, he told Mandel.

“As we all know, there are people from other countries who love our country so much,” Mandel said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Baumbach suffered blunt force trauma to his torso. Investigators are looking for the driver of a car that was parked in the parking lot before his body was discovered.

Lt. Vincent Ursini said it doesn’t look like he was attacked. A coroner’s report on the official cause of Baumbach’s death is still pending. His employer, Cornwall Security Services, did not respond to requests for comment in early June.

“Even though he was in an upscale neighborhood, it doesn’t matter because the risk to security guards is always so great,” Baumbach’s former colleague Terrence Crump said. “It’s always dangerous.”

Crump said he cried when he heard his friend and colleague died at work. The two worked together as security guards years ago. Although they later worked for different security companies, they kept in touch.

Their last conversation was a phone call. They talked about starting their own business and their plans for the future.

“We only dreamed of that a little bit,” Crump said.

Before coming to the United States and watching over affluent neighborhoods and film studios in Southern California, Baumbach watched over his family in Sweden.

“One of my first memories, around the age of 5 or so, I remember some kids taunting me while I was jogging outside,” said Richard Baumbach, Baumbach’s younger brother. “I came home and told my brother, and he said, ‘There’s no one left to help you.'”

Then him went out and beat up the bullies.

“He was four years older than me and I was always his little brother,” Richard said.

But their last conversation was a fight.

Her mother, Inger Baumbach, was upset about something Richard had said and she confided her frustration to her older son. Just like he did for his younger brother when they were kids, Baumbach jumped into her mother’s defense and lashed out at Richard over the phone from America.

“When you live so far away and you hear a story, it’s very important to validate it,” Richard said of the misunderstanding. “And we never did that. I kind of expected that we would follow that up later.”

SaraLynn Mandel is holding a photo of Inge Baumbach

SaraLynn Mandel is holding a photo of Inge Baumbach. She is still awaiting answers about his death.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Mandel said she and Baumbach disagreed on many things later in his life, including politics. He boasted about voting for former President Trump and often taunted progressives and liberals on social media.

But his stubbornness led to a kind of warmth that made others feel protected, Mandel said. She hopes to raise money to send to Baumbach’s mother in Sweden, but knows there will be little consolation when there are so many unanswered questions.

Mandel said Baumbach spoke about getting into fights while at work. but he would dismiss them as minor scuffles. However, in a December 2020 Facebook post, he wrote about a “violent encounter” at work.

“It’s amazing how younger people underestimate us older people,” Baumbach wrote. But then he stopped posting about his job and instead wrote about football and heavy metal music in the weeks leading up to his death.

Mandel isn’t sure what exactly happened to him the night of his death. She has theories, she said, but is awaiting solid answers from the final autopsy report.

“He was kind to everyone and treated everyone equally unless they threatened him or his loved ones,” Mandel said.

Mandel and Baumbach shared a love of animals, like the newborn foal they tangled in a tree behind their property in Westlake Village and christened Calypso. They also raised a Doberman pinscher named Oden. She said she plans to scatter the ashes of Oden and Baumbach in Hawaii, where he had hoped to retire.

“We had our differences, but I miss him and am so sad that he passed away at the age of 58 without seeing the rest of a long life in the sands and waters of Hawaii,” Mandel said.

Richard doesn’t want to dwell on his brother’s final moments or his absence. The last picture he has of Baumbach is him on the ground in the yard trying to screw in a sprinkler head and feeling frustrated.

“I’ll keep that in mind. That memory,” Richard said.

Mandel doesn’t have to look far to find memories of Baumbach.

All she has to do is look in her garden. He has planted succulents there, and they stubbornly linger. A Malibu security guard died on the job. Questions remain

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