PORTLAND — On Saturday evening, freelance photographer Nathan Howard phoned his fiancée from a downtown street after a chaotic few hours chronicling run-ins between a motor caravan of supporters of President Donald Trump and people protesting their presence. There had been paintball guns shot off, rocks thrown and some scuffles and pepper spray.
But shortly before 9 p.m. on this city block things appeared to be settling down. So, while on the phone, Howard didn’t think too much of two men he noticed talking in the middle of the street.
“It was possible that it was tense, but just quietly tense,” recalled Howard, a Vancouver, Washington, photographer who was on assignment that night for Getty Images.
Then, Howard heard shots. He cut short his conversation and dashed over.
The brief encounter between the two men on Third Avenue Southwest ended with one man dead, whom Portland police identified Monday as 39-year-old Aaron J. Danielson. His death came amid more than 90 days of protests in Portland, and in August, more frequent encounters between supporters of police from the right, and militant opponents of police violence.
Danielson was a supporter of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group. His killing has shaken people in Portland and the nation during a tumultuous period of protests that also brought bloodshed to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where two men were fatally shot Aug. 25 amid demonstrations after the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. A 17-year-old from Illinois has been charged in the killings.
In Portland, a Police Bureau homicide unit is investigating Danielson’s death while Oregon State Police are assigned to the city to bolster law enforcement. Police have not officially identified a suspect.
Howard’s account, and video taken at the scene, offer more insights into the slaying and its aftermath.
A video taken by a Portland protest livestreamer, Justin Dunlap, captured the moment the shooting occurred.
He told The Oregonian he saw a cloud of spray in the air and then “half-a-second later, there were two pops.”
Dunlap told The Seattle Times Monday evening he was less than a half block away from the shooting as he took the video. He believed the shooting victim was shouting toward two men crossing the street.
Then, Dunlap said, “I saw the victim bring his right hand up in a motion that looked like he was raising something off his hip. And then the bear mace just erupted and then the shots rang out.”
Dunlap said he couldn’t tell where the shots came from, but saw the two men who’d been crossing the street running away in the opposite direction.
After the gunfire, Danielson staggers a short distance and collapses face-down on the street, the video shows.
Another man rushes toward the gunshot victim. He wears a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans and carries what appears to be a can of mace. This man calls out: “You OK?” according to another video, taken from a closer angle, that has since been posted on social media.
Two bystanders, a man and a woman, soon arrive. The woman, whom Howard later identified as Sierra Boyne, knelt beside the wounded man. She brought with her a bag with medical supplies.
In the video, the man who first came to the victim’s side shoves Boyne away, yelling: “Get the (expletive) out of here.”
Boyne quickly returns, and tells the man: “Sir, I’m a medic. I just want to help.”
“Help! Help then,” the man says.
That man was Chandler Pappas, a Patriot Prayer supporter, who later gave his account of the shooting in a video interview with Andrew Duncomb, a conservative journalist and supporter of President Donald Trump who earlier this summer was stabbed while covering a Portland protest.
In the interview with Duncomb, Pappas said he thought the shooter “was looking for someone to hurt,” and that he and his friend were singled out because they were wearing Patriot Prayer hats. Pappas said he feared that he also would get shot.
After the shooting, Pappas said Danielson had no pulse. He said he briefly argued with “antifa medics,” saying he was wary of their motives before realizing they wanted to assist. He said “some of them, to their credit, really do try to go out there and help people… They came to intervene and tried to effect whatever kind of help they could.”
The video shot by Dunlap shows Boyne offering medical aid for just under 20 seconds. She applies pressure to the wound, and reaches into her bag.
Then police arrive.
“Move back. Move back,” an officer orders, before pulling Boyne up and kicking her medical bag across the sidewalk.
Howard, the photographer, said the man on the ground was still struggling to breathe. He said Boyne tried to return to give information to police about the wound, but an officer used a baton to push her back.
Howard said that a short time later — he estimated 20 seconds — a police medic arrived to work on the wounded man.
By then, police were setting up the area as a crime scene and pushing people away.
Howard, along with some other photographers, made their way into a parking garage above the crime scene, and captured the final struggle to save the man’s life. An ambulance came, then left, with the man still lying on the pavement.
“We knew at that point he had died,” Howard said.
Howard said he watched the man who had initially come to the aid of the shooting victim, later identified as Pappas, start to get yelled at by some of the protesters. He got up and ran toward them. Police restrained him, tearing his shirt.
“People are dying”
Howard’s photographs of the shooting aftermath offered searing images of the violent Saturday night that were widely published online and in newspapers. Raised in Redmond, Howard, 29, worked at The Columbian in Vancouver until he was laid off in the spring and embarked on a freelance career that by late May became focused on chronicling the Portland protests.
The day after the shooting, Howard was back on the streets of Portland, taking photographs of an evening rally that pitted several hundred protesters against the Portland police.
“This really made clear that tensions are going to ratchet up,” Howard said. I’m taking rest where I can get it, because I’m not sure what is going to happen next.”
The Seattle Times was unable to reach Boyne, the woman who came to the aid of the gunshot victim, for comment.
In her Twitter bio, Boyne describes herself as “a tired college student and aspiring model with a lot of things to say. Black Lives Matter. No Justice? No Peace.”
During an interview in late July, Boyne described to a KOIN 6 TV news reporter how she began participating in Portland’s Black Lives Matter protests early on this spring, offering first aid. She did not detail her medical experience, but made it clear she had been assisting injured people.
“I figured this is a very important cause and it’s one worth fighting for, and I felt like my skills are best used as first-aid relief and medical relief,” Boyne said.
Boyne posted tweets Sunday saying that she barely had time to begin examining the wounded man before she was pushed away. “That man was alive when I left and it will haunt me the rest of my life,” she wrote.
In his video interview, Pappas offered a stark assessment of the impact of the shooting.
“This is now past the point of civil conversation,” Pappas said. “People are dying, and when people start dying, then people want to protect themselves. People who are still alive say, ‘I don’t want that to be me.'”