The family of a homeless Black man shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in San Clemente filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on Thursday, Dec. 17, against the county.
Attorneys representing the family of Kurt Reinhold, in a civil complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court, say that Reinhold did not pose an imminent threat to deputies, and described the incident as being part of a “disturbing pattern of shootings of unarmed black men by law enforcement in the United States.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Team – which the deputies involved in the shooting were members of – is “ill-equipped to deal with mentally ill subjects and disproportionately targets and detains persons of color in Orange County.”
Neil Gehlawat, one of the attorneys representing Reinhold’s family, said in a statement. “One thing is clear: The deputies who shot and killed Kurt did the exact opposite of what well-trained officers are expected to do. This lawsuit not only aims to expose the injustice surrounding Kurt’s death, but also the lack of adequate training provided to these deputies.”
Sheriff’s Department officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy to not discuss pending litigation.
Previously, Sheriff Don Barnes has said that Reinhold was grabbing for a deputy’s service weapon during a fight shortly before he was shot and killed. Barnes has declined to comment on why two deputies contacted Reinhold, 42, in the early afternoon near the Hotel Miramar, though the sheriff has said they had tried to “establish a dialogue” with Reinhold in the past to get him homeless services.
The Sheriff’s Department has not identified the deputy who shot Reinhold, or the other deputy who was involved in the physical altercation. They are not named in the lawsuit, either.
The lawsuit alleges that the deputies, one of whom it says already had his Taser drawn, approached Reinhold as he crossed the road near El Camino Real and Avenida San Gabriel.
According to the lawsuit, the deputies “escalated” the encounter with Reinhold, who it says was questioning why the deputies stopped him. The lawsuit alleges the deputies closed in on Reinhold before tackling him to the ground, with one of the deputies then shooting him twice in the torso.
The day after the shooting, Sheriff Barnes released a photo that appeared to show Reinhold reaching for a deputy’s gun during the struggle. An attorney for Reinhold’s family has said the photo is misleading, saying that Reinhold’s arms were flailing and “incidentally” near the weapon.
Reinhold’s family has said that he suffered from mental illness, and at times had difficulty staying on medication. He would stay in various parts of the state, the family said, and had been in San Clemente for about 30 days before he was killed.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Reinhold’s wife, mother and two children, asks for an unspecified amount of monetary damages.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death, as is routine for shootings involving law-enforcement officers.
Source: Orange County Register