Shortly after someone threw makeshift explosive devices at protesters in Southeast Portland early Saturday morning, a man wearing dark clothes and carrying a military style helmet with night-vision goggles was videotaped near the area.
Multiple people say the man in the video appears to be a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and former Central Intelligence Agency contractor who has worked in Afghanistan — and spoken out on social media against the nightly Portland demonstrations.
No one was injured in the small explosions, but the attack suggests a new, dangerous dynamic. For the past 73 days of protests against systemic racism and police violence, there has been a continuous fear that right-wing demonstrators would become involved, leading to violence. Now, it appears that may have happened.
In a livestreamed video filmed during protests demanding the police be defunded or abolished, roughly a dozen protesters are seen gathered in Southeast Portland’s Laurelhurst Park. Some people shout toward a darkened wooded area and point flashlights, calling for someone to come out of the woods. An object then lands near protesters and explodes into a bright light and a plume of smoke.
Protesters shout and call after a person who is not visible in the video. In a later video, a protester shows a second unexploded device that appears to be a pipe containing a bag of black powder.
The small group of protesters gathered at Laurelhurst Park after the enforcement action were attacked by unknown individuals with improvised explosives. This witness describes the attack and the explosive devices used. #PortlandProtest #PDXprotests #Blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/oRYRCBWzPM— Portland Independent Documentarians (@PDocumentarians) August 8, 2020
Scott Keeler, who regularly films at protests, told OPB he followed a person after the incident. Keeler posted a video of the interaction online and said he had seen the person in the video in the park after the explosions had gone off.
Keeler’s video shows a man dressed in dark clothing and carrying a ballistic military style helmet with night vision goggles attached to it.
The man walks away from the person shooting the video and paces between vehicles parked in a residential neighborhood. The person shooting the video shines a flashlight in the man’s eyes.
“Hey, you want to stop,” Keeler says.
“Look man, I’m not the guy you want to fuck with,” the man with the helmet says.
“Ok, then why are you throwing bombs at people?” Keeler asks.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man answers. “But I’m not that guy you want to fuck with.”
It is not clear if the man in the video had anything to do with the device that exploded in Laurelhurst Park. But multiple people told OPB the man in the video resembles Louis Garrick Fernbaugh, a retired Navy SEAL who said in court documents he is a former contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency and that he held a top secret security clearance. In a 2018 Clackamas Review op-ed, Fernbaugh also said he’s held a security clearance his entire adult life.
In a mid-July post on LinkedIn during the height of federal policing on Portland streets, Fernbaugh boasted he had “infiltrated ANTIFA” during previous nights of protests and offered to help other people opposed to the protests do the same.
Fernbaugh was a brand ambassador for Red Frog Team, a female-owned small business that teaches gun safety to women, according to the company’s owner.
“The company ordered a cease and desist a year and a half ago for any affiliation with him,” said Shannon Monihan, Red Frog Team’s owner, “because there were issues and I needed that person not affiliated with this company.”
At OPB’s request, Monihan reviewed the video of the moments after the Laurelhurst Park explosions. She said the man captured on camera in the area is Fernbaugh.
“He’s not affiliated with Red Frog,” Monihan reiterated. “Yes, that’s Garrick Fernbaugh in the video.”
Fernbaugh did not answer several calls made to phone numbers associated with his name or messages on social media.
Numerous photos and videos posted on social media of Fernbaugh appear to match the person in the video posted after the explosions. A former law enforcement official who recognized Fernbaugh’s voice on Keeler’s video said he was certain enough that it’s Fernbaugh that he planned to contact the FBI. A former acquaintance who has known him for several years also confirmed that it is Fernbaugh in the video.
“I’m about trying to make the world a safer, better place at the end of the day, and reutilize some of these skill sets that we have that can help make that happen,” Fernbaugh said in a February 2019 interview on the Military Wire podcast about the security work he’s done since leaving the military.
In an affidavit filed in connection with his 2013 divorce proceedings, Fernbaugh said he is a government consultant and worked overseas for months at a time, returning to Happy Valley during his time off.
“I work in a highly dangerous field and am constantly in danger in an effort to provide for my family,” the affidavit reads.
A 2014 trial memorandum submitted by his soon to be ex-wife said they separated in March 2013 because of domestic violence.
“Given the sensitive nature of his work as a government independent contractor, Wife never reported any incidents to law enforcement,” the memorandum says. “Until now, she has agreed to keep the details of his abusive behavior out of the court file in order to preserve his employment.”
The confrontation between the man identified as Fernbaugh and Keeler points to a potential danger that has long existed in Portland demonstrations: conflicts between activists on the left and groups or individuals with right-leaning politics who oppose them. For the last several years, members of groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer have traveled to Portland and, at times, attacked protesters.
“Give me a F’ing break, the political violence has been going on for more than two years already,” Fernbaugh wrote in a 2018 Facebook post, after explosive devices were sent to CNN and Democratic politicians by a Florida man.
Fernbaugh went on in the post to claim leftists sought a second civil war, repeating a commonly cited conspiracy theory about billionaire investor George Soros.
“Soros is known to have paid ANTIFA to instigate rioting and create chaos that has caused millions in damage across numerous cities, but especially Portland, OR,” Fernbaugh wrote.
A spokesperson for Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said the office is aware of the improvised explosive detonation in the video at Laurelhurst Park, but referred questions regarding any investigation to the Portland Police Bureau.
In a statement released Saturday evening, PPB said it received a 9-1-1 call at 2:38 a.m. Saturday reporting bombs going off at the park.
“We don’t have any witnesses who are willing to speak to us and we don’t have any evidence,” said PPB spokesperson Officer Derek Carmon. “If someone has that device, we’d love to have it.”
The bureau has not confirmed information regarding any possible suspects in the case.
Ryan Haas and Kim Freda contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Scott Keeler’s role at demonstrations. He attends protests to document events on film.