SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An Orange County sheriff’s deputy won’t face criminal charges for shooting a homeless man with mental health issues who was stopped for jaywalking, according to a review released Friday.
The deputy believed that Kurt Reinhold was reaching for his partner’s gun during a Sept. 23, 2020, struggle and posed a danger to the deputies and other people nearby, according to a review by the county district attorney’s office.
The results of the investigation were contained in a letter to Sheriff Don Barnes that was publicly released Friday.
The death of the 42-year-old Reinhold, who was Black, sparked protests and a wrongful death lawsuit by Reinhold’s family.
Two deputies assigned to homeless outreach spotted Reinhold in San Clemente and tried to stop him as he walked across a street, although they disagreed at first on whether he had jaywalked, according to audio from microphones worn by the deputies.
Cellphone video from a bystander showed the deputies repeatedly telling Reinhold to stop while he denied doing anything wrong. The confrontation escalated with the agitated Reinhold repeatedly telling a deputy who put out a hand to stop him: “Stop touching me.”
Reinhold was tackled and all three men fell to the ground. During a struggle, Deputy Jonathan Israel told investigators that he felt Reinhold grabbing for his holster and believed he had drawn the gun.
On the bystander’s video, Israel was heard yelling several times: “He’s got my gun!”
Deputy Eduardo Duran then shot Reinhold twice.
Surveillance video from a nearby hotel showed Reinhold appearing to grab at Israel’s gun or holster, but his family has said he was simply flailing.
The shooting review by the district attorney’s office concluded that Reinhold hadn’t been jaywalking but prosecutors say the deputies were justified in stopping Reinhold because he had illegally crossed an intersection against a red light, the Orange County Register reported.
Reinhold’s family released a statement Friday that said the report confirms that the deputy and his partner “had no reason whatsoever to stop Mr. Reinhold,” the Register reported.
“This was a racially motivated stop aimed at harassing Mr. Reinhold, nothing more,” it said. “The deputies’ escalating tactics — including having a Taser drawn and tackling Mr. Reinhold to the ground — directly contributed to the deputies’ unlawful use of deadly force against a man who was unarmed and had not committed a crime.”
His family has said that Reinhold suffered from mental illness, sometimes had difficulty staying on his medication, moved around the state and had been in San Clemente about 30 days before he was killed, the Register reported.