Five protesters were arrested Thursday as dozens of demonstrators descended on the beach town of San Clemente, California, to decry the death on Wednesday of a homeless Black man shot by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy.
The arrests were announced during an afternoon news conference by Sheriff Don Barnes, who tried to get out in front of the story as local organizers drew a few dozen supporters to the South Orange County city on Thursday to protest the shooting.
Barnes urged the public to reserve judgement of the two deputies involved in confronting the deceased, identified as 42-year-old Kurt Andras Reinhold of Los Angeles County, until the district attorney could complete an investigation.
Reinhold was pronounced dead at the scene after two deputies for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Team contacted him on a San Clemente street at about 1:12 p.m. on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons, the department said in a statement.
The three ended up in a physical struggle on the ground when, Barnes said, the homeless man “appeared” to grab a gun from the holster of a deputy and one of the two law enforcement officers opened fire twice.
Barnes indicated that security video from the nearby Hotel Miramar captured the clash, including the moment the man allegedly grabbed a gun, and would eventually be released to the public.
The sheriff said there was at least one witness who claimed Reinhold did not grab a gun, but urged the media to “please refrain from putting out misinformation until the facts can be known.”
He said Reinhold had been in South Orange County for about a month and that “there were several attempts to try to offer services to him” to no avail.
The two unnamed deputies — who didn’t have body cameras — were trained in crisis intervention and deescalation, and tried to revive the man following the confrontation.
“It didn’t end how we would hope,” Barnes said.
The deputies have been placed on administrative leave during an investigation into the shooting.
The scrutiny of police action, particularly in the case of a homeless Black man, came amid a backdrop of the nationwide racial reckoning since spring over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The death of Rienhold happened the same day protesters took to the streets in Louisville, Kentucky, after one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor was indicted by a grand jury and charged with wanton endangerment, but none of the officers — including the one whose shot killed Taylor — faced charges for her death.
The surfing mecca of San Clemente is a traditionally wealthy, conservative community abutting the San Diego County line. President Richard Nixon enjoyed his unofficial Western White House, which he called La Casa Pacifica, less than a mile from the site of Reinhold’s death.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has been involved in a spate of scandals, including allegations a deputy who responded to a residential death returned to the home and burglarized it, and a separate case in which a deputy is suspected of taking a credit card from a suspect for her son to use.
Asked about the defund-the-police movement that arose in the wake of of Floyd and Taylor’s deaths, Barnes said he could agree with critics on one thing: That there needs to be more funding for homeless services and other social ills police are often not properly equipped to handle.
“We take these matters very seriously,” the sheriff said.
Four protesters were arrested Thursday for allegedly failing to follow deputies’ orders to get out of the street; another was arrested for allegedly scratching up a law enforcement vehicle, Barnes said.
A representative of organizers was unable to respond on Thursday.