A confrontation, bear spray and two gunshots: New details on protest shooting

By Conrad Wilson (OPB) and Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
Sept. 4, 2020 11:07 p.m. Updated: Sept. 5, 2020 12:35 a.m.

Police identified suspect Michael Reinoehl using surveillance cameras and social media videos.

Court documents released Friday offer more detail — but no clear answers — into the chaotic moments before a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer was shot by a self-proclaimed antifa supporter on Aug. 29 in downtown Portland.


Witnesses told police investigators they saw a verbal confrontation between Aaron Danielson and two men in the tense hours after a pro-Donald Trump caravan rolled through a racial justice protest. One of them said, “You wanna go?”

Danielson set off a canister of bear spray.


Then witnesses heard two gunshots.

According to the court records, police identified Reinoehl using surveillance and social media videos from that night and from previous protests. He was a strikingly tall, thin, white man with a distinctive fist tattoo on his neck.

Those surveillance tapes don’t make clear what prompted the shooting. On them, according to court records, Reinoehl is seen walking a few feet ahead of Danielson and Danielson’s friend, Chandler Pappas. Reinoehl looks over his shoulder and then steps into a parking garage while reaching into his vest. The arrest warrant says Danielson appeared to be holding a can in his right hand and an expandable baton in his left. Reinoehl comes out of the garage behind Danielson and Pappas. The shooting occurs mere seconds or moments later.

On Thursday, Reinoehl told VICE News that he shot Danielson in self-defense: “I had no choice,” he told freelance journalist Donovan Farley. “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.”

Court records show that police found a holstered and loaded Glock Model 17 attached to Danielson’s waist and three 9mm magazines in the pockets of his cargo shorts. There is no indication Danielson pulled the gun on Reinoehl or anyone else in the moments before Danielson’s death.

A few hours after that VICE interview aired, Reinoehl was killed by law enforcement officers attempting to arrest him in Lacey, Washington. He had been charged with two felonies: murder in the second degree and unlawful use of a weapon, according to the court records.

Police are seeking a second man seen at the scene who fled after the shooting.