The man suspected of shooting and killing a right-wing demonstrator during protests in Portland, Ore., last weekend was shot and killed by police in Washington state Thursday as investigators moved in to arrest him, officials confirm.
Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, Wash., a U.S. Marshals Service spokesperson said. Reinoehl was the prime suspect in the killing of 39-year-old Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was shot in the chest Saturday night, a Justice Department official told multiple outlets.
Federal agents from the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service had located Reinoehl on Thursday after a warrant was issued for his arrest. During the encounter, Reinoehl was shot by a law enforcement officer who was working on the federal task force, the U.S. Marshals said.
The spokesperson said Reinoehl had pulled a gun during the encounter and was shot by law enforcement.
Global News confirmed the information with the U.S. Marshals, and requested additional information from police in both Portland and Lacey. Portland Police declined to comment further and deferred to the U.S. Marshals’ statement.
Shortly before the news of Reinoehl’s death broke, President Donald Trump asked on Twitter why Portland police hadn’t arrested a suspect in Danielson’s death, calling the shooter a “cold blooded killer.”
“Everybody knows who this thug is. No wonder Portland is going to hell!” Trump wrote.
Reinoehl had described himself in a social media post as “100% ANTIFA,” suggested the tactics of counter-protesters amounted to “warfare,” and had been shot at one protest and cited for having a gun at another.
He had been been a regular presence at anti-racism demonstrations in Portland.
In an interview with Vice News published Thursday, Reinoehl appeared to admit to shooting Danielson, claiming it was in self-defence after believing he and a friend were about to be stabbed.
“I had no choice,” he said. “I mean, I, I had a choice. I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of colour. But I wasn’t going to do that.”
Police on July 5 cited Reinoehl on allegations of possessing a loaded gun in a public place, resisting arrest and interfering with police.
On July 26, Reinoehl was shot near his elbow after he got involved in a scuffle between an armed white man and a group of young people of color. The man who was carrying the gun, Aaron Scott Collins, told The Oregonian that he and a friend had just left a bar when they saw the group harassing an older Black man. His friend began filming them with a phone, and the group confronted them, calling them Nazis, he said.
Danielson was a member of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group that vocally supports Trump. On Aug. 30, a group of Patriot Prayer members and other Trump supporters drove trucks carrying flags into downtown Portland to counter ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice.
Members of the caravan were seen shooting paintballs, pepper spray and mace at the protesters, causing violent skirmishes between the two sides. Danielson was part of the pro-Trump caravan and was shot and killed amid the confrontations.
The day after the shooting, friends of Danielson said he was a “good and decent man” who died expressing his belief of “a right which is guaranteed to all of us through the Constitution.”
Trump and other Republicans have used the shooting as evidence of “left-wing political violence” that has led to property damage and injuries during protests across the country. Yet the president has refused to equally condemn right-wing violence like the tactics used by his supporters in Portland and the killing of two protesters by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., last week.
When asked if he would condemn right-wing violence during a White House briefing Monday, Trump told a CNN reporter that “your supporters” were responsible for Danielson’s death.
Protests have erupted daily in the Pacific Northwest city since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
With unruly demonstrations in Portland nearing the 100-day mark, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and other Democratic leaders on Thursday called for an end to violence — even as federal agents were continuing to arrest protesters who allegedly assaulted law enforcement officers.
“The violence must stop,” Brown wrote. “There is no place for white supremacy or vigilantism in Oregon. All who perpetrate violent crimes must be held equally accountable.”
The statement does not single out the small minority of left-wing protesters who have been setting fires, vandalizing buildings and throwing objects at police. But Brown’s spokesman, Charles Boyle, said it “is a collective call to action for an end to violence in Portland and affirms that those who commit violent acts must be held accountable.
As of a week ago, 74 people were facing federal charges for crimes allegedly committed during demonstrations in Portland since at least May 29, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said.
—With files from the Associated Press