Jogger who tossed homeless man’s belongings into Oakland lake is arrested, police say

Henry Sintay
Henry Sintay

A man dubbed “Jogger Joe” after videos emerged of him tossing a homeless man’s blankets and clothes into Lake Merritt in Oakland, California, has been arrested.

Henry Sintay, 30, was arrested Monday on suspicion of stealing a man’s phone in a subsequent encounter at Lake Merritt on Saturday, Oakland police told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the original 6:30 p.m. Friday incident caught on video by several bystanders, a shirtless and bearded man, wearing running shorts, riffles through a homeless man’s camp beside the lake. Onlookers plead with him to stop, but the man says he’s “cleaning up the trash.”

Some of the homeless man’s belongings wind up floating in the lake, which the jogger says was an “accident,” but bystanders report seeing him dump them in the water. He drags other belongings from the camp over to a trash can, after which witnesses say he ran off.

The videos, posted online, ignited an uproar, with critics calling the trashing of the camp “straight-up cruel.” Advocates for the homeless dubbed the man in the video, who had not yet been identified, “Jogger Joe” and began an online sleuthing effort to identify him.

Even Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf weighed in, telling KPIX that while she understood the frustrations of some residents with homelessness, the jogger’s actions were “not appropriate.”

“It’s not appropriate to take someone’s belongings, it’s not appropriate to trash our beautiful Lake Merritt,” Schaaf told the station.

John Harris, who shot one of the videos, told KNTV that police told him afterward that the jogger could potentially only be fined for littering because the homeless man’s belongings are legally considered debris.

On Saturday, community activist Matt Nelson encountered a man wading in Lake Merritt fishing out the homeless man’s belongings. In the encounter, caught on video, the man says he "cleaned up" the homeless camp the night before and claims he's removing some items that "fell in" the lake because he doesn't want to pollute it.

After a short conversation, the man snatches the phone from Nelson’s hand, saying he has to check to see whether he’s been recording the conversation.

“Are you out of your mind?” Nelson asks. In a Facebook post accompanying the video, Nelson says the man and a companion beat him and dragged him with their vehicle.

Sintay was arrested Monday by Oakland police on suspicion of robbery in connection with the Saturday incident, reported The Mercury News. He’s being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

In the days following the original trashing of the homeless man’s camp, some Oakland residents have been trying to help the man by replacing some of his lost belongings.

"Since I posted the video, it's gotten a really positive response from the community," Harris told the Chronicle. "You know, the community is really stepping up to help this guy out....It's kind of reviving my hope in the goodness of the people in my community.”

The incidents follow one in May at Lake Merritt in which a woman called police to report an African-American family barbecuing at the park, reported KRON. The incident, in which the woman claimed the family was breaking park rules, sparked a national debate about “barbecuing while black.”

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