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By C. Jayden Smith

The Orange County District Attorney’s office announced on Friday, Feb. 11, that it will not charge the deputy sheriff who shot and killed Kurt Reinhold, a 42-year-old Black homeless man, during an altercation with the officer and his partner outside a San Clemente hotel on Sept. 23, 2020.

Nearly 17 months after the incident, in which Reinhold was believed by authorities to have reached for a deputy’s firearm after being stopped for allegedly jaywalking, the DA concluded its investigation, finding that Deputy Eduardo Duran had acted in a “reasonable and justifiable manner.”

“Based on the totality of all the available evidence, it is clear that Deputy Duran was justified in believing Reinhold posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to his partner, himself, and the surrounding civilians,” read a letter detailing the investigation sent to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

Attorneys John Taylor and Neil Gehlawat, who represent Reinhold’s wife LaToya and their two children in an ongoing wrongful death suit against the county and the two officers—Duran and Jonathan Israel—released a statement responding to the investigation’s conclusion.

It stated that while the Reinhold family is disappointed, they’re “not at all surprised by this rubber stamp from the District Attorney’s office.” The attorneys also called into question the independence of the investigation by the sheriff’s department.

“The DA’s office works hand in hand with deputies from the Sheriff’s Department on a daily basis, and as such, their reviews of deputy shootings can hardly be considered ‘independent,’ ” the attorneys said. “In order for these determinations to have any credibility, they must be conducted by truly independent agencies who do not rely on the Sheriff’s Department and its deputies for successful prosecution of their criminal cases.”

Just before the incident, Reinhold had exited a local liquor store and was standing at the southwest corner of Avenida San Gabriel and El Camino Real.

Dashcam footage that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) released a year ago this month recorded the two homeless liaison officers, who were parked across the street, speculating whether Reinhold was going to jaywalk.

“Look at this … watch this, he’s going to jaywalk,” Israel told Duran.

A memorial to Kurt Reinhold, the 42-year-old Black homeless man who was shot by a homeless outreach deputy during an altercation on Sept. 23, 2020, was placed on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Miramar, the location where he died, in the days following the incident. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Reinhold was then seen heading northbound, along El Camino Real, and began to cross San Gabriel before stopping in the middle of the intersection and walking back.

It’s unclear what the status of the pedestrian crosswalk signal was, but the footage shows the traffic signal for southbound and northbound motorists turning yellow, then red, just as he had reached the center of the intersection.

Avenida San Gabriel ends at El Camino Real, turning into Avenida La Ventura—the entrance into the parking lot of a wedding and events center.

“Here we go,” Israel said as he and Duran move their squad car to stop Reinhold.

Duran, who the DA’s office noted didn’t “observe the actions of Reinhold,” told Israel, “Don’t make case law.”

During the stop—some of the footage had been captured by cellphone cameras from witnesses—the officers and Reinhold got into a heated argument with the deputies after they instructed him to stop walking and to sit down. 

The footage of the interaction captured Reinhold telling the deputies to “stop touching me” and asking, “What is your problem?” as he tried to walk away.

The argument escalated into an altercation in which the three men wound up on the ground, moments later resulting in the shooting that killed Reinhold, who police and the DA’s office believe had reached for Israel’s gun.

“While Reinhold was on top of (Israel) and within seconds, Deputy Israel felt his gun being pulled and then heard the rattling of his gun in its holster,” the DA’s letter stated, adding: “Deputy Israel released his right hand from his grip on Reinhold and proceeded to attempt to secure his gun. It was at this point he felt Reinhold’s left hand on the grip of his pistol and was pulling it.”

Still of surveillance footage released by OCSD that seemingly identifies Reinhold reaching for the deputy’s gun. Photo: Courtesy of OCSD

The DA’s investigators from the special assignment unit found that the deputies were justified in stopping and detaining Reinhold because he had violated a vehicle code section by crossing against a red light and walking against an illuminated red hand for pedestrian traffic.

While the DA’s summary stated that Reinhold was technically correct in saying he was not jaywalking at the time, it went on to claim that Reinhold committed additional violations during the detention, including resisting arrest, entering the street other than a marked crosswalk, battery on a peace officer and obstructing an officer in performance of their duties with force.

According to the DA’s findings, Israel repeatedly shouted to Duran, “He’s got my gun!”—with both officers also hearing Reinhold say, “I’m gonna get it,” during the altercation on the ground. After reportedly being told by Duran, “Drop it, or I’ll shoot,” Reinhold “continued to resist.”

During the physical struggle that occurred, the report stated that video surveillance and DNA analysis both confirmed Israel’s belief that Reinhold had a hand on the deputy’s gun grip while Israel was on top.

Israel was described as justifiably concerned that Reinhold would remove and shoot the gun at any of the involved parties or another civilian, as he “yelled to Deputy Duran, ‘He’s got my gun!’ ”

After Duran ordered Reinhold to drop the gun multiple times and Israel again said Reinhold had a hold of the weapon, Duran fired two shots at Reinhold, killing him.

“Both Deputy Israel and Deputy Duran believed deadly force was needed in this situation to protect their lives and that of any civilians in that location,” the letter read.

Witness accounts supported the deputies’ attempts to stop Reinhold and obtain compliance, including one from “John Doe #2,” who said that the officers repeatedly said “Stop!” out loud, according to the DA’s office.

Within the Legal Analysis portion of the letter, it stated that a jury would “justly conclude” Duran reasonably felt his life and others were in danger, and that it was “clear from the evidence” that he did not commit a crime.

Latoya Reinhold on Oct. 6, 2020, talks about the life of her late husband, Kurt Reinhold during a press conference in Santa Ana. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

In Taylor and Gehlawat’s prepared statement, the attorneys said that the most important conclusion from the investigation was that Reinhold was not jaywalking, a confirmation of their own long-held sentiments and a validation of their belief that the interaction was racially motivated.

The attorneys also said that the “escalating tactics” directly contributed to the deputies’ use of deadly force against a man they believe had not committed a crime.

“We will march forward and obtain justice for the Reinhold family,” the statement concluded. “We are confident that when all of the facts are presented in Court, a jury will hold the involved deputies responsible for causing Mr. Reinhold’s untimely death.”

In court filings, the county has argued that the two deputies acted in good faith and within the scope of their duties.

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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comments (1)

  • A sad day indeed for the Reinhold family, and after having lost a husband and father in this way. In my view, a completely unjustified situation and outcome.

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