(Surveillance footage released by Orange County Sheriff's Department)
Video released this week shows two deputies in Orange County, California, debating whether a man was jaywalking before they confronted him in the street with a scene that ultimately escalated in a struggle and one of the deputies fatally shooting him.
The incident took place on September 23. Two deputies, since identified as Eduardo Duran and Jonathan Israel, found Kurt Andras Reinhold, 42, crossing a street in San Clemente, California. They were in their cruiser, which they then parked. They confronted Reinhold, attempting to detain him for jaywalking. Reinhold was uncooperative and refused to follow orders from the deputy. This escalated into a fight as one of the deputies tried to stop Reinhold from walking away. A bystander and a nearby business's surveillance camera captured the fight on video. At one point, one deputy started screaming "he's got my gun" over and over again, and the other deputy drew his gun and shot Reinhold. He died on the scene.
Reinhold's family (he has a wife and two children) is suing the Orange County Sheriff's Department, noting that the deputies escalated the situation to the point of violence. The grainy images of the confrontation show Reinhold's hand, while he's struggling on the ground, on the deputy's holster, but it's not clear whether he's trying to grab the deputy's gun or escape a hold. The Los Angeles Timesnotes that the deputies had spoken to Reinhold previously about trespassing, but he hadn't been arrested or cited, and the encounters had been peaceful.
On Wednesday, the sheriff's department released more video, including the deputies' dashcam recording prior to the encounter turning violent. There's no body camera footage. The Orange County Sheriff's Department only recently began the process of equipping deputies with body cameras and doesn't expect to have them fully rolled out until next year. And unfortunately, the confrontation happened behind the deputy's patrol car, so the dash camera didn't capture it, recording only what the officers were saying.
These two deputies are part of the Orange County Sheriff's Department's "homeless liaison officers." Their job is to "assist the homeless population and provide them with access to available resources and services, while protecting the quality of life for the citizens of Orange County through proactive enforcement."
You won't find any of that in the video below. Instead, you'll find two deputies looking to make a bust:
The debate between the two deputies is not about whether they can do anything to help Reinhold or whether he represents a threat to himself or others—there's nothing that either of the deputies says that indicates that they care about him at all. The only debate is whether Reinhold had actually jaywalked, which they clearly want to use as a justification to detain him.
And that becomes apparent during the actual confrontation. The two never say anything about wanting to assist him or "provide [him] with access to available resources and services," as their job description calls for. The entire confrontation involves the two of them demanding Reinhold's compliance and arguing with him about whether he jaywalked, with one deputy repeatedly, stupidly declaring, "This is a controlled intersection," a sentence that is probably meaningless to most people. They don't want to help Reinhold. They want him to shut up and do what he's told. One says, "Are you going to stop, or are we going to have to make you stop?"
These are exactly the kind of incidents reformers have in mind when they talk about not sending police to deal with every kind of problem. Ultimately, investigators may decide that the shooting was "justified" by virtue of how Reinhold behaved during the fight. But it's entirely the deputies' fault that it got to that point. At least one of those deputies wanted a confrontation. He wanted not to help Reinhold but to punish him.
Regardless of whether either of the deputies is found culpable for Reinhold's death, it's clear they are not actually doing the work the sheriff's department describes. Some cities are seeing success in sending health care workers to respond to certain types of 911 calls rather than police officers, recognizing that law enforcement is not always well-suited to handling mental health or homelessness issues. This unnecessary confrontation is a textbook example.