The February death of Aaron Wimmer, a gay San Francisco man who was well-known as a performer on Bay Area and New York stages, was from an accidental methamphetamine overdose, according to a report released this week.
According to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office, which made its report available Wednesday, June 29, a bystander saw Wimmer, who was having “seizure-like activity,” collapse on the corner of Second and Howard streets at about 10 a.m. February 2.
The person who witnessed the collapse started CPR, and Wimmer was rushed to the emergency department at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, but he died at about 11.
According to the medical examiner’s report, which cites hospital staff and other sources, a friend had last seen Wimmer alive at about 7 p.m. February 1.
At the time, the report says, Wimmer “did not voice any specific complaints,” but the friend said Wimmer had “recently relapsed on crystal methamphetamine.”
Wimmer had a history of acute renal failure, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and other problems, the medical examiner’s office says. There were “multiple prescriptions” among his belongings when he died, but the agency’s report says, “Based on the prescription dates and pill quantities, abuse of the prescriptions is not likely.”
Tests showed methamphetamine and amphetamine in Wimmer’s blood, according to the toxicology report, but no other drugs were listed.
The cause of death was “acute methamphetamine intoxication,” and findings included heart trouble and other problems.
Wimmer had in 2013 portrayed longtime activist Cleve Jones in a production of the play Dear Harvey. The play involves Jones’ friend Harvey Milk, the gay civil rights icon and city supervisor who was assassinated in San Francisco in 1978.
Jones told the Bay Area Reporter in February that at first he wasn’t sure that Wimmer was the right actor to portray him.
“I thought he was too tall and too handsome,” Jones said. But he admitted that Wimmer’s sensitivity turned out to be exactly right for Dear Harvey.
“I used to see him around the neighborhood,” Jones added. “He was always so sweet, kind, smart, and lovely. I’m terribly sorry for his friends and family.”
Jones made similar comments Wednesday, calling him “very charismatic” and “a delight.”
Referring to the cause of Wimmer’s death, Jones said, “To lose him this way is really kind of maddening, and I hope that some people at last will be motivated to restart our conversation about what meth is doing to us. We had yet another dreadful example of losing one of our best to this drug.”
In a Facebook exchange Wednesday, Oakland resident Jasamyn Wimmer, Wimmer’s younger sister, called him “the most amazing person I have ever known.”
“In receiving the outcome of my brother’s investigation I want to address the fact that Aaron struggled with addiction for a very long time, and despite this outcome it is important to know that he never gave up,” she said. “His death was a tragic accident. I hope that with this news we can focus on Aaron’s love and beautiful spirit as we continue to deal with this great loss.”
In a text message, John Bowman, Wimmer’s partner, said, “Aaron had been sober for many years. We worked hard to get him the right help for certain health issues that he had. I could not be more proud of the dedication he had and the work he did on himself, and the richness that it added to our relationship, to his family, to our life together, and to my own journey. It is heartbreaking that by and large, treatment and care for substance use or mental health hasn’t caught up to current research and modern standards for evidence-based practices. Aaron’s life was, and continues to be, defined by creativity, and an incredibly warm and generous spirit that touched many.”