The family of Kurt Reinhold, the homeless, unarmed Black man who a deputy shot and killed during an altercation with police in San Clemente in September 2020, feels as if they have achieved justice for their loved one’s death, according to their legal counsel.
Those sentiments were spurred on by the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ 4-0 vote on Tuesday, May 9, that approved a $7.5 million settlement awarded to the Reinhold family. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the two deputies involved in the 2020 incident.
Neil Gehlawat, who represented Reinhold’s family alongside John Taylor of Taylor & Ring, said the family was “pleased with the result,” having spoken with them regarding the OC Board of Supervisors’ decision.
“Obviously, no amount of money is ever going to bring Kurt back, but they feel that this settlement is vindication for what happened,” Gehlawat said. “It represents an amount that clearly demonstrates the county is taking accountability for what happened.”
A spokesperson for OCSD said the department will not comment on the settlement.
On Sept. 23, 2020, deputies Eduardo Duran and Jonathan Israel—members of OCSD’s Homeless Outreach Team—approached Reinhold after they reportedly had witnessed him jaywalk along South El Camino Real, near the Hotel Miramar.
The interaction between the deputies and Reinhold escalated into an altercation. The deputies pinned Reinhold to the ground, and Duran fired two shots at Reinhold after Israel claimed Reinhold had reached for and tried to remove the officer’s firearm.
The county Board of Supervisors’ settlement approval comes just over a year since the Orange County District Attorney’s office concluded its investigation and announced it would not charge Duran for his conduct, finding he had acted in a “reasonable and justifiable manner.”
Both officers were also justified in believing they needed to use deadly force to protect themselves, according to the DA’s office, which added that although Reinhold didn’t technically jaywalk, he did commit other violations.
Occurring at a time when nationwide protests were calling on governments to increase their accountability of law enforcement following George Floyd’s death while in police custody, Reinhold’s own death sparked multiple protests locally.
Following the DA’s decision, demonstrators in April 2022 marched from the Hotel Miramar—near where Reinhold was killed—to Historic City Hall in Downtown San Clemente.
Gehlawat said all settlement negotiations are confidential. He shared that parties will agree to a settlement with the understanding that going to trial could have its risks, including losing the case or not achieving a desired outcome.
He added that both the county and the Reinholds’ representation found the number of $7.5 million “agreeable.”
“We obviously felt that this was a very righteous case, that the deputies used excessive force, that they had no reason to stop Mr. Reinhold in the first place on that day,” said Gehlawat. “And the county and the deputies obviously had their positions on the case.”