A wrongful death claim was filed by the family of a homeless 42-year-old Black man against the Orange County, California, and the two deputies involved in his fatal shooting.
The incident occurred on Sept. 23, in San Clemente following a struggle between Kurt Andras Reinhold and two deputies with the homeless outreach team. Reinhold was reaching for a deputy’s gun when the shooting happened, officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
The claim was filed Oct. 6 on behalf of Reinhold’s wife of 12 years, Latoya Reinhold, and their two children. It was announced at a Tuesday morning press conference with the family’s lawyers, Reinhold’s wife, mother, sister and other family members standing before the courthouse.
“These officers are supposedly trained to deal with people who are homeless or experiencing some sort of emotional problem,” said family lawyer John Taylor. “How do we get to Kurt ending up on the ground, being jumped by the two officers, and end up being killed?”
Taylor says Reinhold was originally stopped for jaywalking, but there is no confirmation from the Sheriff’s Department about why he was approached.
He also maintained that the deputies involved had escalated the situation at “every step,” including allegedly placing their hands on Reinhold first and ultimately wrestling him to the ground.
At his own press conference on Thursday, Oct. 8, Sheriff Don Barnes stated that “de-escalation goes both ways and requires both parties to be engaged in and interested in de-escalating the situation.”
Reinhold encountered two deputies with a homeless outreach team around 1:15 near the Hotel Miramar. Reinhold had apparently traveled to the San Clemente area around 30 days before, and members of the homeless outreach team had previously tried to “establish a dialogue” with him to suggest homeless services, said the sheriff.
During the news conference he encouraged the public to reserve their opinions until the incident can be investigated in full.
Barnes said he was unable to comment on why deputies contacted Reinhold, or on the events leading up to the physical confrontation. The deputies were unidentified, but Barnes said they were both trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation methods.
Various community members have said they believed the deputies’ confrontation with Reinhold was related to a clampdown on jaywalking. The sheriff noted that he was not aware of any operations that day aimed at jaywalking in San Clemente.
At least part of the incident purportedly was caught on security camera. The sheriff’s department did not release the video, but it did reveal a grainy screenshot that Barnes said depicted Reinhold reaching for the handgun of a deputy.
Barnes confirmed that one deputy fired at Reinhold twice, in a struggle “that went on for some time.”
Taylor has said that the picture released by the Sheriff’s Department was misleading, due to the fact that Reinhold was struggling on the ground and was flailing his arms about. He said that the picture is just a brief segment that just happened to show Reinhold’s hand near the weapon, and he would have had extreme difficulty grabbing the weapon while being held on the ground by deputies.
Reinhold suffered from mental illness, and there were periods of time within the past two years when he would have issues, said Taylor. He was taking medication but had some difficulties with staying on the treatments.
Taylor said Reinhold held numerous jobs over the years but was not currently working, and would stay in different locations throughout the state, although his family is based in the Los Angeles area.
Neil Gehlawat, another lawyer for the Reinhold family, said, in addition to unspecified monetary damages, the family wants “transparency and justice.”
Gehlawat said that involves releasing the complete autopsy report, the Sheriff’s Department report on the shooting, the names of the deputies involved in order to request their personnel files to discover if they were implicated in prior similar incidents, and the complete footage of the altercation, including all radio traffic to find out why Reinhold was initially stopped by police.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is currently conducting an investigation into the shooting death of Reinhold.