National News

Oakland Jogger Who Threw Out Homeless Man’s Belongings Faces a Related Robbery Charge

Posted June 14, 2018 7:44 p.m. EDT

A jogger in Oakland, California, who was filmed disposing of a homeless man’s belongings last week was charged Wednesday with a felony count of second-degree robbery in a related altercation.

The jogger, Henry William Sintay, took the phone of a man who recorded him at the same spot the day after the encounter, authorities said.

The original video, recorded Friday, spread quickly online and crystallized concerns frequently voiced about the Bay Area, which is being transformed by rapid gentrification and rising rents.

The video shows Sintay kicking through sheets, bags and other items under a gazebo-like structure near the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland before collecting the items and moving them to a nearby trash can.

On Saturday, another man, Matt Nelson, came across Sintay standing in the lake near that same spot. Nelson, who had only seen headlines about the previous day’s episode, live-streamed as he and others spoke with Sintay.

When Nelson introduced himself, Sintay reached out as if to shake his hand, but then grabbed his phone. In an ensuing scuffle with Sintay and another man, Nelson was struck by a vehicle as he sought to retrieve the phone and received a concussion, cuts and bruises, he said.

He said he was glad that the charges had been filed on Wednesday, but added that Sintay should face consequences for throwing away the items belonging to the homeless man, whom Nelson and others identified as Drew.

“Henry stealing my phone should be seen as a robbery, but Henry grabbing Drew’s possessions, his bedding, et cetera, and throwing it in the lake should also be seen as a robbery,” he said.

Sintay’s actions were symbolic of the concerns longtime residents have about the area’s housing crisis and how it threatens to change the community, said Nelson, the executive director of Presente, a civil and human rights organization representing the interests of Latinos.

What happened was, he said, “a direct affront and insult to the values that many residents have — values of treating each other like neighbors, values of respect for diversity, values around working out problems and concerns together.”

The housing crisis in the Bay Area and other parts of California has brought tensions over income inequality and homelessness into focus. Last month, a well-dressed man carrying a briefcase walked up to a man lying on a sidewalk in San Francisco and kicked him twice, an act caught on surveillance footage.

J.J. Harris, a filmmaker and photographer who recorded the original video, echoed Nelson’s comments about what the episode showed.

“What happens in Oakland a lot of times is a symbol for what’s going on in the rest of our country when it comes to gentrification, when it comes to inequality, when it comes to people of color,” he said.

During the Friday encounter, Harris and others tried to get Sintay to stop, but he said he was simply “picking up the trash.” When a woman pointed out that Sintay had thrown some of the items in the lake, he replied that it “was an accident.”

In a hearing Wednesday, Sintay’s public defender, Shaylana Cleveland, said that he had received death threats after the footage of his actions spread, according to The Mercury News. She also said that Sintay had been “a transient himself.” A call to Cleveland on Thursday was not immediately returned.

Judge Mark McCannon of Superior Court of California set bail at $55,000 after determining that Sintay was “a threat to safety,” the newspaper reported. A plea hearing is scheduled for Monday.

An online fundraiser seeking to raise $3,000 to replace the belongings the homeless man lost has collected more than $12,000. Harris, who is involved with the campaign, said he and others hoped to put the money toward finding the man housing.