President Donald Trump during a Fox TV interview praised the fatal police shooting of Michael Reinoehl, the self-described Portland antifascist accused of killing a right-wing Trump supporter, calling it appropriate “retribution.”
Trump characterized Reinoehl’s alleged shooting of Aaron “Jay” Danielson in downtown Portland on Aug. 29 as a “cold-blooded” killing and said he pushed two and a half days later for Reinoehl’s arrest.
“I put out, ‘When are you going to go get him?'” Trump said Saturday on the “Justice With Judge Jeanine” show.
“And the U.S. Marshals went in to get him. And, in a short period of time, it ended in a gun fight. This guy was a violent criminal. And the U.S. Marshals killed him,” Trump said. “I will tell you something, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.”
The president went on to say: “There can’t be guys standing up that want to fight. They want to fight. You can’t throw bricks at people with shields on.”
On Sept. 3, four officers from three different Washington law enforcement agencies fired at Reinoehl after confronting him outside an apartment near Lacey, Washington. The officers were part of the U.S. Marshals Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force.
The task force was trying to arrest Reinoehl on a warrant signed earlier that afternoon by a Multnomah County judge that charged Reinoehl with second-degree murder with a firearm and unlawful use of a firearm in the shooting of Danielson after a pro-Trump car caravan wound through downtown Portland.
Reinoehl was a self-described anti-fascist who said he provided security for demonstrators at ongoing protests in Portland against police violence and racial injustice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Danielson had participated in the Trump caravan and was a backer of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group based in Vancouver known for clashing with antifa supporters in Portland.
In response to Trump’s remarks, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote Sunday on Twitter: “So the President is admitting that federal authorities killed Michael Reinoehl for ‘retribution’? We are on our way to normalizing the execution of criminal suspects before arrest, trial or conviction. It’s that serious.”
In Washington, Reinoehl was armed with a handgun when police spotted him walking out of an apartment, but investigators haven’t said whether he fired any shots at officers, according to Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady.
Reinoehl, 48, died at the scene. An autopsy showed he died from gunshot wounds to the head and upper torso.
A day after Reinoehl was killed, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr issued a written statement, calling the “tracking down of Reinoehl” a significant accomplishment and that the streets are safer “with this violent agitator removed.”
Witnesses have provided conflicting accounts of what occurred.
Nate Dinguss, a man who lives at the apartment complex and has obtained a lawyer, put out a statement last week, saying he didn’t see Reinoehl pull a gun when officers began firing at him. He said officers didn’t appear to issue any commands or orders to Reinoehl.
Reinoehl was heading to his car while eating candy and holding a cellphone, Dinguss said.
The night of the shooting, the U.S. Marshals Service issued a statement that said “initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers. Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.”
In the Portland killing, investigators said in court documents that it appears Reinoehl targeted Danielson, who wore a Patriot Prayer cap. Reinoehl emerged from an alcove of a parking garage before firing two gunshots, one that hit Danielson’s bear spray can and the other that hit him in the chest, according to police affidavits. Danielson was walking south on Southwest Third Avenue at the time.
In Trump’s interview with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro Saturday, he also called Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler “a disaster, a laughingstock,” claiming that if he sent federal officers back to Portland, “within a half an hour the whole thing would be solved.”
His administration sent federal officers from multiple agencies to Portland in early July to help secure the downtown Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse from vandalism during downtown demonstrations. Their presence, though, led to a greater number of demonstrators taking to the street and protesting.
After some in the crowd lobbed fireworks, frozen water bottles, rocks and other objects nightly at the officers, the federal officers responded firing tear gas and impact munitions, which has led to multiple lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service.
An agreement reached in late July between Gov. Kate Brown and Vice President Mike Pence resulted in state troopers taking over the outside security of the federal courthouse for two weeks, while federal officers retreated inside. Protesters then turned their attention to various police precincts around the city and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’ field office in Southwest Portland.
— Maxine Bernstein
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