President Donald Trump appeared to give a nod to law enforcement officers killing suspected criminals, describing the death of an alleged shooting suspect by U.S. Marshals as “retribution.” Speaking in an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Trump spoke of the incident in which a law enforcement officer killed a self-described anti-fascist activist earlier this month in Washington state as they sought to arrest him on suspicion that he fatally shot a right-wing protester in Portland, Oregon. Trump seemed to endorse the killing. “This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. Marshals killed him,” Trump told Pirro. “And I will tell you something—that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.”
Trump was referring to the killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl on Sept. 3. Reinoehl was a key suspect in the killing of a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland on Aug. 29. In an interview published by Vice News hours before he was killed, Reinoehl said he acted in self-defense. “You know, lots of lawyers suggest that I shouldn’t even be saying anything, but I feel it’s important that the world at least gets a little bit of what’s really going on,” Reinoehl said. “I had no choice. I mean, I, I had a choice. I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color. But I wasn’t going to do that.” Reinoehl, an Army veteran, said during the interview that he provided “security” at Black Lives Matter protests.
Shortly after that interview was published, law enforcement agents shot and killed Reinoehl as they moved to arrest him. Officers claimed Reinoehl was brandishing a weapon, but it isn’t clear whether he fired at police. No law enforcement officers were injured. “Initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers,” the Marshals Service said in a statement. “Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Witnesses have differing accounts of what happened that day. One person who witnessed the killing said Reinoehl was clutching his cellphone when two unmarked cars showed up and officers began firing. “Officers shot multiple rapid-fire rounds at Reinoehl before issuing a brief ‘stop’ command, quickly followed by more rapid-fire shooting by additional officers,” according to a statement provided by the witness. Two other witnesses who were nearby, though, say they saw Reinoehl open fire and the officers fired back. “It reminded me of a video game,” one of the witnesses said.