The family of a homeless man fatally shot during a struggle with Orange County sheriff’s deputies in San Clemente last month filed a wrongful death claim with the county Tuesday.
The claim, which is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit, was filed on behalf of 42-year-old Kurt Andras Reinhold’s wife, Latoya Reinhold and their son and daughter, ages 8 and 7.
Reinhold was shot during a scrum with two sheriff’s deputies outside of Hotel Miramar at El Camino Real and Avenida San Gabriel at about 10 a.m. on Sept. 23.
Reinhold was shot twice, was unarmed and “did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to either of the deputies,” according to the claim.
The deputies, who were part of a homeless outreach team, approached Reinhold for an unknown reason, authorities said.
The family’s attorney, Neil Gehlawat, said one of the deputies “already had a Taser” out as they approached Reinhold.
The reason for the contact remains unknown, Gehlawat said.
“I guess it was because he was jay walking,” the attorney said.
But just before Reinhold reached the other side of the street the deputies turned him around to the other side of the street, the attorney said.
The deputies were trained to interact with transients and to deescalate tension, Gehlawat said.
“Tackling him to the ground doesn’t sound like de-escalation to me,” Gehlawat said.
Sheriff Don Barnes said in a news conference after the shooting that it appeared Reinhold was attempting to clutch at one of the deputies’ weapons.
Barnes said one of the two deputies was heard saying, “He’s got my gun,” but the sheriff added it was unclear whether Reinhold managed to unholster the firearm.
“This reaching for the gun is a false narrative,” Gehlawat responded. “If you watch the video closely, Mr. Reinhold is in a choke hold by the deputy. He’s flailing his arms, which happen to incidentally touch the holster area. There’s no physical way possible he could unholster the gun.”
Reinhold was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and struggled with the mental illness for several years, Gehlawat said.
“He was put on medication for it and at times he intermittently took the medication, so there were good days and bad days toward the end,” Gehlawat said. “In the last year or so it became more prominent and pronounced and he struggled with it more.”
Reinhold’s family was “supportive,” but he would travel around, including the San Francisco Bay area and then to San Clemente, Gehlawat said.
It’s unclear why Reinhold ended up in San Clemente.
The county has 45 days to either accept or reject the claim, which does not specify an award.
Barnes issued the following statement:
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department extends our condolences to the family of Mr. Reinhold for their loss. 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.”
Barnes added, “What led to the initial contact with the deputies is part of the ongoing investigation. During the physical altercation, Mr. Reinhold grabbed one of the deputies’ guns. This information is shared as a factual circumstance of the encounter between the deputies and Mr. Reinhold, and not to excuse or assign blame to either party.
“With the current state of police community relations, we should not tolerate attempts to inflame and drive a narrative that does not fully capture the context of this singular incident.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Department takes seriously our responsibility to provide professional and transparent law enforcement services to our community. As your sheriff, I commit to being forthright and transparent as this investigation continues.”