(TMU) – Last Wednesday, two officers with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department shot and killed a homeless man, 42-year-old Kurt Andras Reinhold. Reinhold was not suspected of any crime, but the officers approached him anyway because they wanted to help him, or so they say. The two deputies who were involved with the altercation were a part of the department’s homeless outreach team. The team is reportedly tasked with making contact with known homeless people in the area and offering them information about resources and services.
Unfortunately, when they approached Reinhold, things did not go as planned, and one of the deputies ended up shooting and killing him. The officers claimed that Reinhold attempted to grab one of their guns after the encounter turned into an altercation, but it is not clear how the situation escalated to that point in the first place.
The photo is questionable and open to interpretation, but clearly shows the officers on top of the man and they have given no explanation as to why they were manhandling him, when the encounter was supposedly intended to help.
The department later released a short clip of the surveillance video, which showed the officers on top of Reinhold, but they have given no excuse as to what provoked this aggressive action.
In a statement on Thursday, DA spokeswoman Kimberly Edds promised an independent investigation.
“The District Attorney’s investigation is to determine whether there is any criminal culpability on the part of the law enforcement officers involved in an officer-involved shooting or custodial death. In order to further safeguard the independence of the investigation, the District Attorney ensures the assigned team of District Attorney Investigators, who are sworn law enforcement officers, are not former employees of the law enforcement agency being investigated,” Edds said.
The killing has already sparked protests locally, which caused officials to impose a 9 pm curfew in the San Clemente area. This is the most recent of many cases where police have ended up shooting a person that they never should have interacted with.
Every single police encounter in the United States has the potential to end deadly, and in many of these cases, the person targeted by police is not a threat to anyone. Police are known to escalate situations much quicker and more aggressively when dealing with homeless people or people with mental illness. Racism also plays a major factor in many of these interactions.
This is why activists across the country are calling for police departments to be defunded, and forfeit certain responsibilities to social workers and mental health experts. In another case earlier this month, police in Salt Lake City shot a 13-year-old autistic boy 11 times because he ran away from them when they came to his house for a wellness check.
The boy had a rational fear of police because they had killed his grandfather earlier this year. Before the shooting took place, one of the officers on the scene said that the issue was a “psych problem” and not police business. She urged the other officers not to intervene and mind their own business. Sadly, the officers didn’t listen and that young boy may never walk again. If the officers in Orange County never talked to Reinhold, he would still be alive as well. In both cases, absolutely nothing was gained from the officers putting themselves into a situation where a person was in crisis.
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