LACEY, Thurston County — A man suspected of fatally shooting a right-wing activist during a night of clashes between racial-injustice demonstrators and Trump supporters in Portland last weekend was killed late Thursday when local and federal officers tried to arrest him outside an apartment in Lacey, a law enforcement source familiar with the matter said.
Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, a self-proclaimed antifa supporter who has said he worked security on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters, was shot after he fled the Lacey apartment and got into a car that was then stopped by members of a fugitive task force, the police source said.
Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady, who declined to identify the man killed, said in a separate interview at the shooting scene that officers fired into the suspect’s vehicle. Then the man got out of the vehicle and officers fired more shots, Brady said. He didn’t say whether the suspect fired back. No law enforcement officers were injured, he said.
The shooting occurred shortly before 7 p.m., as a task force headed by U.S. marshals converged on the area near the apartment “looking for a known, wanted homicide suspect” after a warrant had been issued for him Thursday, Brady said.
A neighbor said he believed the man fired on law enforcement, but a news release Friday morning from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office made no mention of the man returning fire.
“We have not interviewed or obtained statements from the involved officers at the time. We cannot confirm whether any shots were fired by the suspect,” said Brady in an email Friday morning. In a statement, the U.S. Marshals Service said the man “produced a firearm” but also made no mention of him shooting. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and he was armed with a handgun, according to the sheriff’s office.
Chad Smith, 29, said he was sitting outside, eating dinner, when a car accelerated down the street and turned abruptly into the apartment complex.
He and two other men walked over to see what was happening, “and that’s when we heard the first set of gunshots.”
He described bursts of semiautomatic fire.
“And we seen the suspect got out of a silver car, got out, pulled out his gun and was shooting toward the cops,” said Smith, who said he’s lived in the neighborhood for two years. “At that point the suspect was shooting and walking backwards.”
Officers fired more, he said. “There was a bunch of shots, probably a good minute, minute-and-a-half of just solid shooting.”
Reinoehl’s shooting came the same day VICE-TV aired an interview with him in which he said he shot and killed a Patriot Prayer supporter, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, last Saturday in downtown Portland. Reinoehl described the shooting as self-defense, saying, “I had no choice.”
Danielson, 39, was among a large group of Trump supporters who clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters during the demonstrations Saturday. At the time of the shooting, which was captured by protest livestreamer Justin Dunlap’s video from about a half-block away, Danielson was with friend and fellow Patriot Prayer supporter Chandler Pappas when two men crossed a street nearby. Video appears to show Danielson approaching the two men with bear spray before a tall, thin man fires two shots, then flees.
“I think it was planned,” Pappas said the next day in an interview with a conservative journalist, Andrew Duncomb. “I think they were looking for someone to hurt.”
In the interview on VICE-TV, Reinoehl did not give details of the shooting but said lives were in danger.
“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 had been an active participant in Portland protests for weeks, and in Bloomberg QuickTake News video posted July 27, he described how he had been shot while “working security” for the protests earlier this summer, after trying to wrestle a gun away from a man who he thought posed a threat.
“I have military experience, and so I jumped in there, and pulled the gun away from people’s heads, avoided being shot in the stomach, and I got shot through the arm,” Reinoehl told a reporter, before displaying a blood-soaked bandaged wrapped around his upper right arm.
Portland police had not officially identified Reinoehl as a suspect in Danielson’s homicide, but unnamed police sources have told The Oregonian that the man is a suspect.
On his Facebook page, Reinoehl said he lived in Gresham, just east of Portland, and a residential history shows he lived at addresses at Fort Lewis, now known as Joint Base Lewis–McChord, from 1992 to 2002. An Army official told The New York Times that no record of service could be found under his name.
Reinoehl, whose neck was tattooed with a black fist — which has been used as a symbol of many protest movements, including Black Lives Matter — described himself as “100% ANTIFA” in a June 8 Instagram post.
“Every Revolution needs people that are willing and ready to fight,” he wrote. “There are so many of us protesters that are just protesting without a clue of where that will lead. That’s just the beginning that’s where the fight starts. If that’s as far as you can take it thank you for your participation but please stand aside and support the ones that are willing to fight. I am 100% ANTIFA all the way! 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!”
Reinoehl had some recent run-ins with the law. In June, he was charged in eastern Oregon’s Baker County for unlawful possession of a firearm, driving under the influence, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
According to Baker County District Attorney Greg Baxter, based on a police probable cause statement, Reinoehl was accused of driving his vehicle over 100 mph while racing his 17-year-old-son, who was driving another car. Reinoehl appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance and had his 11-year-old daughter with him in his car, the statement said. Police say they found a concealed firearm in his car but that he didn’t have a concealed carry permit, Baxter said.
After he failed to appear at a court hearing in Baker County on July 8, a warrant was issued, court records show.
Three days earlier, on July 5, Portland police cited Reinoehl during the downtown protests for interfering with an officer, resisting arrest and “possession of a loaded firearm in a public place.” It is illegal to openly carry a loaded firearm in Portland’s public places. He was released and, as of earlier this week, had not been charged for that incident.
Two days before Portland police cited him for the gun charge, Reinoehl posted on Instagram an image of a text exchange between himself and a friend.
“I’ve been getting word from a Patriot group on Facebook that the 4th of July they are taking back the cities,” the friend texted. “They might probably are hostile w arms.”
Reinoehl texted back: “Thank you my friend we are ready.”
His shooting death late Thursday came about an hour before VICE News broadcast its full interview with Reinoehl. The media outlet said it did not know Reinoehl’s whereabouts at the time.
The fugitive task force involved in the encounter late Thursday, known as the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, is headed by U.S. marshals and included Pierce County deputies, state corrections officers and members of other local police agencies.