Newly released video and audio show for the first time what started a high-profile police encounter that ended with a homeless Black man shot dead on a San Clemente, California, street last September: Sheriff’s deputies thought he was jaywalking.
The footage, published by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday, includes dashboard camera video, audio of the officers, and surveillance video from a nearby motel, detailing what preceded the September 23 incident in which a deputy fatally shot 42-year-old Kurt Andras Reinhold. It comes nearly five months after a bystander’s cellphone video showed two deputies—both of whom have been described as homeless liaison officers who assist unhoused people—confronting Reinhold as he repeatedly yelled, “Stop touching me,” ending with a death rocked the city, spurred protests, and triggered a lawsuit from Reinhold’s family.
While the sheriff’s department did not name the deputies in the footage Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times has identified them as Eduardo Duran and Jonathan Israel.
In the bystander’s cellphone video, deputies can be seen taking Reinhold to the ground before one deputy shouted that Reinhold had his weapon. Then two shots rang out. The father of two, who’s been described as struggling with mental illness, was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We were always wondering, ‘Why did they stop him?’” John Taylor, an attorney for Reinhold’s family, said of the deputies’ dashboard camera footage, adding, “This man is in no distress, he is not a threat of danger to himself or others.”
“As you see on the tape, there’s a disagreement about whether he’s jaywalking,” Taylor said.
At the beginning of the dashboard camera video released Wednesday, one deputy can be heard saying of Reinhold, “Okey-doke, he’s seen you. He’s seen you, copper.”
“Watch this—he’s going to jaywalk,” a second deputy responded before Reinhold crossed the street.
The deputies then seemingly questioned whether Reinhold's actions were illegal, with the second deputy noting, “It’s controlled, man,” meaning there are traffic lights at the intersection.
“I don’t know, dude,” the first deputy said.
“It is,” the second deputy responded.
“Don’t make case law,” the deputy added.
“It’s not case law,” the first deputy said as he drove the police cruiser out of a parking lot and toward Reinhold, who stood waiting on a sidewalk. Once the car reached Reinhold, he walked toward the back of the cruiser and could no longer be seen on the dashboard camera. The deputies are also not visible.
“What’s going on, man?” one of the deputies—it’s unclear which one—can be heard asking. “How you doing?”
“Hey, hey—you need to stop,” the first deputy told Reinhold.
The deputy added, “Are you going to stop, or are we going to have to make you stop?”
“For what?” Reinhold said.
“For jaywalking,” the first deputy responded.
“What are you talking about?” Reinhold shouted. “I’m walking.”
After that, Reinhold—who is still not visible on the dashboard camera—began to yell, “Get off,” repeatedly asking the deputies, “For what?”
The first deputy asked that Reinhold get on the sidewalk and out of the street, according to the dashboard camera footage. Reinhold can be heard yelling in the video, “Stop touching me.” Bystander cellphone video taken around this time shows that Reinhold repeatedly swatted one of the deputy’s hands away during a confrontation in the middle of the road.
Sgt. Dennis Breckner, a spokesperson for the agency, said that Reinhold was “refusing to obey the deputy’s commands to go back to the sidewalk, and is actively resisting the deputy’s attempt to detain him” in the sheriff’s department’s “critical incident video” summarizing the encounter. Deputies tackled Reinhold to the ground, the bystander video shows. After that, one deputy started to yell that Reinhold had his gun. Gunfire can be heard. Security footage from a nearby motel appears to show Reinhold touching the gun.
Taylor, the attorney for Reinhold’s family, said that the video does not show that Reinhold was grabbing at the gun’s holster while he was in a chokehold, however.
“He’s trying to get a hold of something on the officer to get away from him,” Taylor said. “He’s grabbing onto whatever he can to push himself away.”
Taylor said the shooting would’ve never happened if Reinhold were white.
Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said in a text message to VICE News that both an internal investigation and a probe from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office remain ongoing.
“No decisions regarding discipline will be made until the investigations are complete,” she said.