Los Angeles Times
Deputy escapes charges in shooting
Kurt Reinhold, 42, was killed in 2020 after being stopped for jaywalking.
An Orange County sheriff ’s deputy who fatally shot an unarmed, homeless Black man in 2020 in San Clemente will not face criminal charges, according to the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors on Friday released a 10-page letter outlining the investigation into the Sept. 23, 2020, shooting in which Deputy Eduardo Duran killed 42-year-old Kurt Reinhold after stopping him on suspicion of jaywalking.
Duran and his partner, Deputy Jonathan Israel, were homeless liaison officers working a two-person patrol shift when they encountered Reinhold, according to the letter. The deputies tried to detain him, but the three men ended up grappling on the ground.
At some point during the struggle, Reinhold grabbed hold of Israel’s gun in its holster. Duran shot Reinhold twice after he continued to resist arrest and kept his grip on the gun, prosecutors said.
The deputies gave volun
tary statements to investigators that were corroborated by surveillance video, witnesses and forensic evidence, the letter said.
“It is clear from the evidence in this case that Deputy Duran did not commit a crime, and that he was justified when he shot Reinhold,” Assistant Dist. Atty. Stephen McGreevy wrote in the letter.
A lawsuit filed in December 2020 on behalf of Reinhold’s widow, Latoya; his mother, Judy Reinhold Tucker; and his children is ongoing. Attorneys for the family said Friday that their clients were disappointed but not surprised by the prosecutors’ decision, which they called a “rubber stamp.”
“The D.A.’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, John Taylor and Neil Gehlawat, said. “We will march forward and obtain justice for the Reinhold family.”
Taylor and Gehlawat said they were confident a jury will hold the deputies responsible for Reinhold’s death.
The prosecutors’ letter, meanwhile, laid out more details of the events leading up to the shooting.
Before they started their shift, Duran told Israel about an incident with Reinhold the night before. Duran was at the Sheriff ’s Annex at San Clemente City Hall around 9 p.m. Sept. 22, 2020, viewing video footage of Reinhold trespassing at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, the letter said. After watching the video, Duran drove to the property with two other deputies.
The lawmen arrived around 10 p.m. and tried speaking with Reinhold, but he wouldn’t respond to questions. They offered him services and resources, but he continued to ignore them, prosecutors wrote.
Lacking an active “no trespassing” letter from the property owner, the deputies “concluded they had no enforceable action they could take” and left, prosecutors stated.
Around 1:32 p.m. the next day, Duran and Israel were driving south on El Camino Real in their marked patrol SUV when Israel saw Reinhold.
The deputies pulled into a 7-Eleven across the street, and Israel saw Reinhold cross the street “against a solid red hand signal,” the letter stated. He activated the patrol unit’s red lights and drove up to where Reinhold was.
Last year, the Sheriff’s Department released dashboard camera video in which the deputies are heard arguing over whether to stop Reinhold.
“Don’t make case law,” Duran says in the video, and his partner snaps back, “It is not case law.”
“This comment was made by Deputy Duran because he personally did not see the actions of Reinhold and wanted to make sure Deputy Israel had probable cause to initiate a stop,” McGreevy wrote in the letter.
Israel parked the SUV ahead of Reinhold. The deputies exited and told Reinhold to stop, but he continued walking away.
Israel told Reinhold he was being detained, the letter stated. When Reinhold asked why, the deputy replied that it was for “jaywalking.”
Investigators later concluded that Reinhold hadn’t technically jaywalked, but they said he wasn’t free to leave because he’d crossed the street against a red signal.
Taylor and Gehlawat disagreed, saying the deputies “had no reason whatsoever” to stop him.
“This was a racially motivated stop aimed at harassing Mr. Reinhold, nothing more,” the attorneys 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.”
According to the prosecutors’ letter, both deputies were trained in outreach, deescalation tactics, crisis avoidance and how to interact with people who have mental health and addiction issues.
After being told he’d jaywalked, Reinhold disagreed and walked into the street while continuing to resist Israel’s efforts to detain him, prosecutors said.
The deputies directed Reinhold onto the sidewalk in front of the Miramar Hotel, where Duran grabbed Reinhold’s backpack and took him to the ground after he allegedly tried to shove Israel.
The three men grappled, and Reinhold ended up on top of Israel.
“Within seconds,” Israel felt his gun belt being pulled and heard the weapon rattling in its holster, prosecutors said.
Israel yelled, “He’s got my gun,” and both deputies heard Reinhold say, “I’m gonna get it,” according to the letter. Duran twice told Reinhold, “Drop it or I’ll shoot,” then fired a shot.
Reinhold continued to resist. Israel said, “He’s still got my gun, shoot him again,” McGreevy wrote. Reinhold went limp after Duran fired a second shot into his chest.
Surveillance video from the hotel captured the shooting and “clearly showed” Reinhold grabbing Israel’s gun, McGreevy said. Forensic analysis later found that Reinhold “was the major contributor” to DNA found on Israel’s pistol, holster and knife.
Investigators said Reinhold had “several encounters and arrests by law enforcement” since 2019 and listed four incidents in which he allegedly trespassed and resisted arrest.
Taylor and Gehlawat said the inclusion of those incidents in the report “screams of bias.”
“There was no reason to include information about his conviction less past in this report, except to malign Mr. Reinhold’s character in a public forum,” the attorneys said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with the D.A.’s decision regarding criminal charges against the deputies involved.”
A compilation of video from the dashcam, a bystander’s cellphone and surveillance cameras showed the encounter. The Deputies were not equipped with body cameras at the time; the Orange County Sheriff ’s Department started deploying body cameras last year.
The shooting roiled the San Clemente community and left lingering questions: How did Reinhold, an educated, churchgoing father of two who coached youth soccer end up living on the streets of south Orange County? What pushed him into mental illness and homelessness?
The shooting echoed that of Charly “Africa” Keunang, a Black man who was mentally ill and homeless, in 2015. Keunang was shot to death by Los Angeles police officers on skid row. The Los Angeles County district attorney declined to prosecute the two officers, saying the dead man had put his fingers around the weapon.
Pasadena civil rights attorney Dan Stormer represented Keunang’s family members during a civil trial in which a jury found the two officers liable in the shooting.
Stormer’s firm reached a $1.95-million settlement with the city on behalf of the family.