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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Cracks in the System

On Sept. 23, 2020, sheriff’s deputies Eduardo Duran and Jonathan Israel confronted San Clemente local Kurt Reinhold on grounds of jaywalking. This confrontation culminated in the needless loss of life when Reinhold was fatally shot by the officers.

At the time of the incident, Duran was a 14-year veteran and Israel an 8-year veteran—both members of the Orange County Sheriff’s San Clemente Homeless Outreach Team. Both officers were arguing prior to stopping Reinhold, with one officer stating “it’s controlled, man, don’t make case law,” while the other officer mulled on the idea of stopping Reinhold. They eventually did encounter him, and the situation escalated when both officers used force to stop Reinhold.

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Initially, the authorities denied releasing any footage of the confrontation, but in mid-February, the OC Sheriff’s Department released video footage of the incident.

A father and husband, Reinhold suffered from a schizoaffective disorder he had been battling for years, which led to him becoming homeless.

The unit Duran and Israel were in, the City Net Homeless Outreach Team, specialized in assessing and dealing with homeless issues in the community of San Clemente. However, during the confrontation shown in the police dashcam footage, there were no outreach or de-escalation methods used when dealing with Reinhold, the family claims. John Taylor, the attorney for the Reinhold family, released a statement to the public saying: “they weren’t trying to help him… their words weren’t saying ‘We should help him get to a shelter.’” Taylor believes the deputies couldn’t agree on what Reinhold did wrong, “but they decided to stop him anyway and escalated the situation.”

Reinhold’s death left a bloody stain on San Clemente and sadly, it was not spoken about as much as it should have. His death is a testament to the call activists have been making for years, urging for the change needed in California’s police departments and the change needed in the way police conduct calls with individuals that suffer from mental health issues.

Since 2015, The Washington Post has cataloged fatal shootings conducted by police officers in the United States; there have been 1,422 reported cases wherein police officers have shot and killed people living with mental illnesses. Police departments around the country started to utilize CIT (Crisis Intervention Teams) to address these types of cases. However, there has been heavy criticism toward the program. Ron Bruno, executive director of Crisis Intervention Team International, spoke out against the effectiveness of the program.

“If you keep throwing money at training officers, and that’s all you do, and not address the system around mental health care, you’ll continue to have nothing but problems,” he said.

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Montebello police officer Terri Oronoz said, “Mental illness and homelessness is a huge problem in every city. We developed a MET [Mental Illness Evaluation] team; we assign an officer who is then paired with a health department social worker. The mental health social worker has more resources and so they pair them together so they can offer more services to these people, but they do not get involved in anything that can escalate into force.”

“Nine times out of ten it’s usually somebody that is really disturbed and they are not trained to handle a situation with any type of force. That’s been an issue too,” said Oronoz.

Programs like these have been introduced to evoke change and understanding amongst the ongoing stigma between mental health and police departments, instead of appropriately assisting those who need help or properly redirecting people to get the health services they need. In the U.S., Black individuals make up 13% of the population, while 39% are experiencing homelessness. This is a system that failed Reinhold and has failed many others.

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The summer of 2020 saw mass protests across the nation spurred on in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Kurt Reinhold at the hands of police officers. These names are etched into the stars and into the history books—their deaths discussed on national television bringing to light and reminding those unaware of the racial disparities still plaguing the nation. People in major cities in the U.S. and across the globe came together to protest against the systemic injustices plaguing Black citizens.