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Home Global Michael Forest Reinoehl, Suspect in Portland Shooting, Is Killed by Officers

Michael Forest Reinoehl, Suspect in Portland Shooting, Is Killed by Officers

Law enforcement agents killed Michael Forest Reinoehl while trying to arrest him, four officials said. He was being investigated in the fatal shooting of a supporter of a far-right group.

Credit…Joshua Bessex for The New York Times

LACEY, Wash. — Law enforcement agents shot and killed an antifa supporter on Thursday as they moved to arrest him in the fatal shooting of a right-wing activist who was part of a pro-Trump caravan in Portland, Ore., officials said.

The suspect, Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, was shot by officers from a federally led fugitive task force during the encounter in Lacey, Wash., southwest of Seattle, according to four law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.

Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said in an interview that the suspect being sought by the law enforcement team had exited an apartment and got into a vehicle.

“As they attempted to apprehend him, there was gunfire,” Lieutenant Brady said. He said four law enforcement officers fired their weapons.

Lieutenant Brady said that the officers at the scene reported that the suspect was armed, but that investigators had not confirmed that as of early Friday morning.

An arrest warrant had been issued by the Portland police earlier Thursday, on the same day that Vice News published an interview with Mr. Reinoehl in which he appeared to admit to the Aug. 29 shooting, saying, “I had no choice.”

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Credit…Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian

The Portland police had been investigating Saturday’s shooting death of Aaron J. Danielson, one of the supporters of President Trump who came into downtown Portland and clashed with protesters demonstrating against racial injustice and police brutality.

Mr. Reinoehl, who lived in the Portland area, had been a persistent presence at the city’s demonstrations over recent weeks, helping the protesters with security and suggesting on social media that the struggle was becoming a war where “there will be casualties.”

“I am 100% ANTIFA all the way!” he posted on Instagram in June, referring to a loose collection of activists who have mobilized to oppose groups they see as fascist or racist. “I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! Even if some of them are too ignorant to realize what antifa truly stands for. We do not want violence but we will not run from it either!”

In the Vice interview, Mr. Reinoehl said he had acted in self-defense, believing that he and a friend were about to be stabbed. “I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color, but I wasn’t going to do that,” he said.

An hour before his fatal encounter with law enforcement, Mr. Reinoehl was on the telephone with Tiffanie Wickwire, who was helping him set up a GoFundMe page, Ms. Wickwire said in an interview.

“We were talking about his kids and what to do for them if anything happened to him,” she said, referring to his 17-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.

“Stay safe,” they told each other at the end of the call, she said.

The task force that attempted to arrest Mr. Reinoehl included members of the U.S. Marshals Service, the Lakewood Police Department, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Department of Corrections.

The officers closed in on Mr. Reinoehl on a residential street lined with townhomes and single-family houses in an unincorporated area adjacent to Lacey, not far from the Washington State capital of Olympia and about two hours north of Portland.

Chad Smith, 29, who lives next door to the apartment where the shooting occurred, said he was standing outside at about 6:45 p.m. when he saw two S.U.V.s race toward the complex. He heard about a minute and a half of gunshots, he said, then saw a man walking backward next to a white pickup truck, holding what appeared to be a gun, and officers firing in his direction.

Trevor Brown, 24, who lives in a townhouse nearby, said he heard several shots fired and saw as many as four police officers in the road, who fired three or four times. He said he then saw Mr. Reinoehl lying on the ground.

Jashon Spencer, who also lives not far away, also heard the gunshots. “I just heard a whole bunch of pops,” Mr. Spencer said. “I ducked. I thought they were shooting in my yard.”

He said that he went out and saw a bloodied man in the street, and a video he took showed a law enforcement officer attempting CPR.

After the shooting, several hundred protesters in Portland gathered in front of a police station in a residential neighborhood, chanting racial justice slogans as they have on most nights since May, although the mood shortly before midnight was relatively calm.

“There’s blood on your hands. You murdered Michael Reinoehl,” someone had posted in the street outside a law enforcement building. “Michael was murdered,” said another posting.

Later in the evening, police officers charged the crowd and took one person into custody.

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Credit…Joshua Bessex for The New York Times

As part of the protesters’ security team during the demonstrations, Mr. Reinoehl’s role included intercepting potential agitators and helping calm conflicts, fellow protesters said.

“Nightly, he would break up fights,” said Randal McCorkle, a regular at the demonstrations who said he became close friends with Mr. Reinoehl as they wore on.

“He wanted change so badly,” he said. His death, he said, would likely inspire others to continue the movement for police reform. “I was going to say radicalize, but galvanize is a better word,” he said. “Honestly, I’m going to try to step into his shoes.”

Reese Monson, a leader in the local protest movement who also helps organize security, said all the people who helped with security in Portland, including Mr. Reinoehl, were trained on de-escalation.

“He was excellent at that,” Mr. Monson said.

Mr. Monson said the security designees have been trained to approach potential agitators and politely ask them to leave. They have also been trained on how to conduct physical removals but are cautioned to try to avoid such measures because they can cause things to escalate. Mr. Monson said Mr. Reinoehl would often come over to discuss how to appropriately handle potential agitators.

He sometimes ran into trouble, though. On July 5 during the protests, Mr. Reinoehl was charged with resisting arrest and possession of a loaded firearm in a case that was later dropped. At the end of July, he showed a bloodied arm to a journalist with Bloomberg QuickTake News and said he had been shot while intervening in a fight.

The night when Mr. Danielson was shot began with a large crowd of supporters of Mr. Trump gathering in the suburbs. They planned to drive hundreds of vehicles carrying flags around the highways of Portland, but many of them eventually drove downtown, where protesters have been congregating regularly. Once there, some Trump supporters shot paintballs into the crowd, while people on the streets threw objects back at them. Some fistfights broke out.

As evening turned into night, video appears to show Mr. Danielson, who was wearing a hat with the insignia of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, and Mr. Reinoehl on a street along with a few other people. One person was shouting, “We’ve got a couple right here.”

The man who captured video of the shooting, Justin Dunlap, said it appeared that Mr. Danielson reached to his hip.

“He pulled from his side, just like he was pulling a gun,” Mr. Dunlap said.

But in other video shot during the encounter, someone can be heard flagging that Mr. Danielson was pulling out a can of mace. “He’s macing you, he’s pulling it out,” the person warned.

It appeared from the video that Mr. Danielson sprayed mace just as two gunshots could be heard, and Mr. Danielson went down.

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Credit…Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Portland has seen escalating conflicts involving guns over the past few weeks. On Aug. 15, a person allied with right-wing demonstrators fired two shots from his vehicle, the authorities said. A week later, during open clashes on the streets, another right-wing demonstrator pulled out a gun.

Mr. Reinoehl said in his social media posts that he was once in the Army, and hated it, although an Army official said no record of service could be found under his name. In the Bloomberg interview, Mr. Reinoehl described himself as a professional snowboarder and a contractor.

His daughter was with him during the July interview, and he said she had also been present during the encounter that left his arm bloodied.

“The fact is that she is going to be contributing to running this new country that we’re fighting for,” Mr. Reinoehl said. “And she’s going to learn everything on the street, not by what people have said.”

Mr. Reinoehl’s sister, who asked to remain anonymous because the family has received numerous threatening phone calls in recent days, said police officers asked if screenshots from videos from the night of the shooting looked like her brother. She said they did, but she said she had not seen him since three years ago, when she said family members broke off contact with Mr. Reinoehl after escalating conflicts.

At the beginning of June, in the days after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis triggered nationwide protests, Mr. Reinoehl began posting about the need for change.

“Things are bad right now and they can only get worse,” he posted on June 3. “But that is how a radical change comes about.”

Hallie Golden reported from Lacey, Mike Baker from Seattle, and Adam Goldman from Washington. Katie Benner and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting from Washington.

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