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Family of homeless Black man fatally shot in San Clemente files claim against O.C. Sheriff’s Department

Latoya Reinhold, widow of Kurt Reinhold, reads a prepared statement at a news conference in Santa Ana.
Latoya Reinhold, widow of Kurt Reinhold, reads a prepared statement at a news conference in Santa Ana after filing a wrongful death claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The family of a Black homeless man fatally shot last month in San Clemente has filed a wrongful death claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, accusing deputies of targeting people of color and turning a jaywalking incident “deadly.”

On the afternoon of Sept. 23, Kurt Andras Reinhold was crossing El Camino Real in front of Hotel Miramar while holding some peanuts and an iced tea.

Coming out, he began walking in the middle of the street, disrupting traffic, based on witness accounts and a video shot by a bystander.

Two deputies from the sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Team approached Reinhold. An argument erupted. One of the officers, using his gloved hand, repeatedly tapped the victim’s right shoulder, as Reinhold told him, “Stop touching me.”

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Neil Gehlawat, right, lawyer for the Reinhold family, speaks at a news conference in Santa Ana.
Neil Gehlawat, right, lawyer for the Reinhold family, discusses filing a wrongful death claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at a news conference in Santa Ana on Tuesday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

According to the video, one deputy ordered Reinhold to “go sit down,” but Reinhold, appearing agitated, instead tried to pass the two men.

As the officers wrestled Reinhold to the ground, a voice, presumably a deputy’s, cried out: “He’s got my gun! He’s got my gun!” Two shots are then heard. It is not possible to tell from the video whether Reinhold actually tried to grab a weapon.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies do not wear body cameras. The department plans to roll them out over the next 18 months.

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“These officers are supposedly trained to deal with the homeless. They needed to deescalate the situation, rather than escalate it,” said John Taylor, an attorney representing Latoya Reinhold, the widow of Kurt Reinhold. She, along with the victim’s son, 7, and daughter, 8, have filed a claim for wrongful death, statutory and punitive damages.

Photos of Kurt Reinhold
A photograph of Judy Reinhold and her son, Kurt Reinhold, when Kurt was age 20, left, and a photo of Kurt Reinhold and his wife Latoya Reinhold, right, on display at the news conference on Tuesday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“How do we get from helping to ending up on the ground — the victim of gunfire — when he was unarmed?” Taylor continued.

At a news conference in Santa Ana on Tuesday, Latoya Reinhold read a short statement while surrounded by grieving relatives, among them, Judy Reinhold, Kurt Reinhold’s tearful mother, along with his sister. Latoya Reinhold described her trauma and painted a picture of her husband as a devoted soccer coach who woke up early on Saturday mornings to participate in the game with his son.

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“None of this makes any sense. It’s a nightmare I’m living with each and every day,” Latoya Reinhold said.

Taylor and Neil Gehlawat, another attorney representing the family, said that Kurt Reinhold, who was 42, joins “an ever-growing mountain of evidence of unarmed black men and women shot by white officers.”

“Jaywalking should not get you killed in Orange County. Being homeless should not get you killed in Orange County,” Taylor added.

The Reinhold family at the Santa Ana news conference.
The Reinhold family at the Santa Ana news conference announces the filing of a wrongful death claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Kurt Reinhold struggled with mental illness and had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Gehlawat said. At times, he took medication, and he had drifted from living with his mother or wife, whom he married in 2008, based in Inglewood and the Ladera Heights area of Los Angeles.

The father of two made his way to the beachfront town of San Clemente in September, drawn to it, “like many others” because of its beauty, Taylor said. The family is seeking “justice and transparency” from sheriff’s officials and are awaiting the autopsy report, footage of the incident and radio traffic, along with the names of deputies to see if they have been involved in use-of-force situations in the past, Gehlawat said.

In an email sent Wednesday to The Times, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said that his office assigns an independent medical examiner to conduct the autopsy and that there’s a separate “set of specimens” available to the family to test independently.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, who has said the Homeless Outreach Team had engaged with Reinhold many times previously to direct him to resources, issued a statement responding to the family.

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“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department extends our condolences to the family of Mr. Reinhold for their loss,” the statement read.

“Every time law enforcement contact escalates to the use of deadly force, it is tragic for the family, the deputies and the community. It is vitally important that we reserve judgment until a full and complete investigation has been completed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.”

Danny Blain kneels at a memorial for Kurt Reinhold in San Clemente.
Danny Blain kneels at a memorial for Kurt Reinhold in San Clemente. Reinhold, who was homeless, was fatally shot by Orange County sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 23.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)


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