Investigators: Portland protest shooting suspect pointed gun at officers

A murder suspect fatally shot by police this month had pointed his handgun at officers when police closed in on him, authorities said

By Lewis Kamb
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The man suspected of fatally shooting a right-wing activist during racial injustice protests in Portland last month pointed a handgun at officers before they shot and killed him near Lacey this month, a police spokesperson for the team investigating the crime said Thursday.

But investigators still don’t know whether Michael Forest Reinoehl fired his gun before four members of a task force fired multiple shots into his head and torso.

A Washington State Patrol Crime Lab worker looks at evidence markers in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lacey, Wash.
A Washington State Patrol Crime Lab worker looks at evidence markers in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lacey, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A regional team of police agencies tasked with investigating the shooting has confirmed that “Mr. Reinoehl pointed the handgun that he had in his possession at the officers at the time of the shooting,” Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release late Thursday.

Detectives also located a fired .380 shell casing in Reinoehl’s vehicle that is the same caliber as the gun he had at the the time of his death, Brady’s announcement said. No officers had or fired a gun of that caliber, the announcement added.

Still, investigators haven’t been “able to determine at this time if this shell casing is an exact match to the firearm in his possession even though it is the same caliber,” Brady added. They also still aren’t sure if the gun Reinoehl had when he was shot is the same weapon used in the Portland shooting. The state crime lab is conducting ballistics tests, Brady said.

Reinhoehl, 48, a self-professed anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter supporter, died after members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, headed by the U.S. Marshals Service, unleashed a hail of gunfire as they moved in to arrest him outside the Tanglewilde Terrace Townhomes about 7 p.m Sept. 3.

Questions about Reinoehl’s shooting have lingered; witnesses have given conflicting accounts of whether or not he fired at the officers. President Donald Trump also later praised the officers for killing Reinoehl, calling it appropriate “retribution.”

Authorities have said that after Reinoehl tried to leave the apartments in a car, the task force used its vehicles to box the car in. At least four officers, including two Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, a Lakewood police officer and a state Department of Corrections officer, fired multiple rounds at Reinoehl inside and outside of the car.

During a subsequent search of Reinoehl’s car, detectives also discovered an AR15-style .22 caliber rifle with its serial number removed in the front seat, Brady’s announcement said Thursday. The rifle also has been sent to the crime lab.

The task force was executing a warrant, issued under seal a day earlier by a Multnomah County court, for Reinoehl’s arrest on second-degree murder and illegal gun charges in connection with the shooting of Aaron “Jay” Danielson.

Danielson, 39, a Patriot Prayer and Trump supporter, was shot and killed Aug. 29 in downtown Portland. A parking garage’s surveillance video captured Reinoehl that night spotting Danielson and his friend and fellow Patriot Prayer supporter Chandler Pappas, according to detectives’ probable cause statement used to obtain the arrest warrant. Reinoehl then allegedly ducked into the garage and let the two men pass before he followed them across a street, shot Danielson and ran, the affidavit states.

Just before the shooting, a livestream blogger’s video showed Danielson advance several steps toward Reinoehl, raising a canister of bear spray. Police later found an expandable baton near Danielson’s body, and recovered a loaded Glock handgun from his waistband and three additional magazines full of ammunition from his shorts pocket, according to the probable cause affidavit.

In an interview with VICE News shortly before he was killed, Reinoehl seemed to admit to shooting Danielson, but claimed the act was “totally justified” and done to protect a friend who was walking with him.

Reinoehl, who in a June Instagram post described himself as “100% ANTIFA,” was a veteran of recent Portland protests and said he had worked security on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters, including during a July incident when he was shot in the arm.

Prior to Danielson’s shooting last month, Reinoehl also had recent run-ins with police. He faced multiple criminal charges, including an illegal gun possession charge, stemming from a June 8 reckless driving incident when he allegedly was racing his teenage son’s car in Baker County. He also was cited, but wasn’t charged, with illegally possessing a gun and resisting arrest during Portland protests July 5.

©2020 The Seattle Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2021 Police1. All rights reserved.