The man alleged to have shot and killed a far-right provocateur in Portland, Oregon, over the weekend was killed by police during an attempted arrest Thursday night. Authorities say they tracked 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl a two-hour drive north to Lacey, Washington, which neighbors the state capital of Olympia, and moved to apprehend the vocal supporter of the antifa movement, a loose collection of far-left activists aiming to counteract far-right groups. From videos taken at the scene of the Portland shooting last Saturday, authorities believed Reinoehl was responsible for the death of 39-year-old Aaron Danielson, an apparent member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, who was a part of a pro-Trump caravan that traveled into the city to confront demonstrators protesting against racial injustice and police brutality. The group, many wearing military-style clothing, fired paintball rifles and used pepper spray on protesters.
The officers at the scene Thursday said when they approached the apartment complex, Reinoehl fled an apartment and got into a vehicle. “Initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers,” said Jurgen R. Soekhoe, a U.S. Marshals spokesman, in a statement about the task force of law enforcement that was carrying out the arrest. “Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.” At least four officers fired in “a very brief amount of time” at Reinoehl as he approached his car around 7 p.m., Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said in a press conference Thursday night. The officers pursued Reinoehl and continued to fire at him. It is not yet clear whether Reinoehl was, in fact, armed or fired on police.
In a video interview with Vice News that aired shortly before his death, Reinoehl indicated he had shot Danielson, but said it was done in self-defense, saying a friend was about to be stabbed when he pulled the trigger. “I was confident that I did not hit anyone innocent, and I made my exit,” Reinoehl said. “I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color, but I wasn’t going to do that.” Reinoehl was a frequent presence at the Portland protests in the weeks before the shooting and had made ominous statements on social media, suggesting “there will be casualties.” “I see a civil war right around the corner,” he later told Vice News. “That shot felt like the beginning of a war.”
To many protesters in Portland, however, Reinoehl’s role in the protests was as a protector, someone trained in de-escalation and tasked with shielding the demonstrators from agitators and danger. Protesters said he would routinely break up fights. “He was literally a guardian angel,” Teal Lindseth, one of the main organizers of the Portland protests, told the New York Times. “He would protect you no matter what.”