Family of veteran killed by off-duty police officer still hopes for justice

It was three years ago Friday that 29-year-old James Whitehead, a Marine veteran, was shot and killed by off-duty Orange Police Captain Robert Arnold.  It happened outside the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in the 2900 block of North 16th Street in Orange.

According to investigators, Whitehead had lost his temper inside the store with an employee, when Whitehead was trying to return an item.  That's when Arnold intervened, and the altercation ended up outside, where Arnold fatally shot Whitehead.

Friday night, family and friends gathered at the parking lot, like they have for the past three years on the anniversary, to remember Whitehead.

In November 2010 Arnold was placed on indefinite suspension.  An Orange County Grand Jury determined that the shooting had been justified, and cleared Arnold of any wrongdoing. Then, an arbitrator ordered that Arnold should be reinstated with back pay.  The city appealed the decision and won a judgement granting it a new arbitration hearing.  The legal wrangling continues today.

Still, Whitehead's mother believes justice was not served, and she doesn't want people to forget what happened.

In an exclusive interview with 12News, Diana Whitehead said, "I want people to realize that he didn't deserve this and I want people to get involved and find out you can't let stuff like this happen.  This is scary to think that someone can do that in broad daylight and not even be treated as a criminal, not even once."

As for former Officer Arnold, he's suing the City of Orange, accusing it of violating his civil rights when he was fired.

He has not been able to find employment in law enforcement.

Arnold's attorney, Cade Bernsen said, "The evidence is clear that he acted in self-defense when he shot Whitehead."

The trial for Arnold's lawsuit is scheduled for December.

The city did pay a settlement to the Whitehead family, but his mother says that Whitehead's daughter has not been able to receive benefits because it was ruled that Whitehead caused his own death.

His mother is also heartbroken that her son's grave still has no headstone.

Whitehead served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


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