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Jogger who trashed homeless man's things charged with robbery in new dispute

A jogger caught on camera trashing a homeless man’s belongings in an Oakland park has been arrested and charged with robbery after a separate incident in the same location.

Henry Sintay, who was filmed last Friday dumping a local homeless man’s possessions in the garbage and into a lake, was charged in criminal court on Wednesday. The case was filed after the 30-year-old was captured in another video returning to the park on Saturday and arguing with a group of people before he allegedly grabbed the phone of someone filming him and ran off.

Prosecutors said in court records that Sintay had committed a second-degree felony strong-arm robbery and that he had confessed to the offense. Sintay was taken to jail, and it wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday if he had an attorney.

Sintay’s actions reignited debates about racial profiling and gentrification in Oakland, a liberal California city with a rich black history that is currently suffering through an extreme housing and homelessness crisis. But unlike many of the other recent cases of white Americans harassing people of color or mistreating disenfranchised people, Sintay is now facing law enforcement consequences.

In the original video, Sintay ignored the pleas of other parkgoers telling him not to disturb the homeless man’s belongings. “I’m picking up trash, what do you want me to do? … It’s disgusting.”

Kenzie Smith, left, and Greg Markson.



Kenzie Smith, left, and Greg Markson. Photograph: Sam Levin for the Guardian

In the second video a day later, it was unclear why exactly Sintay had returned. “I cleaned up his shit and then some other shit fell in,” he said when asked about the tossed belongings, later noting: “This guy has taken a permanent residence here.” He also seemed to defend his actions, saying: “I pick up trash all over the place.”

When the person filming introduced himself and reached out to shake his hands, Sintay appeared to grab the phone and run. At one point, the man who was live-streaming appeared to shout: “I’m being attacked here!”

Greg Markson, the man whose belongings were dumped, told the Guardian that he chose not to pursue charges in the initial incident after he discovered his possessions were trashed. He said he was ready to move on from the incident.

“I’m not going to harp over items that were thrown in the water,” he said in an interview on Tuesday afternoon, seated in the spot at Lake Merritt where Sintay had rifled through his things days earlier. Referencing the clothes and other items people had since donated to him, he added: “People got things replaced … There are only so many ways I can say thank you for that.”

Markson, who also goes by the name Drew or Jru, has long spent time at this section of the popular Bay Area park, near the site of another recent video that sparked national outrage. In May, a white woman was filmed alerting 911 about two black men barbecuing, earning her the nickname “BBQ Becky” and adding to the long list of stories of white people calling law enforcement on African Americans doing everyday activities.

Markson said he was confused to find his belongings trashed and didn’t understand why the man would have thrown clothes in the water.

“There are other ways to handle issues,” he said, adding that he appreciated the outpouring of support. “Oakland is home … I feel loved.”

Kenzie Smith, one of the men who was barbecuing when police were called to Lake Merritt, said he was assisting Markson and hoped to get him long-term help: “We want to transition him from staying here to having his own home.”

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