Racial justice protester suspected in Portland shooting death killed by law enforcement

By Conrad Wilson (OPB) and Kimberley Freda (OPB)
Sept. 4, 2020 12:11 a.m. Updated: Sept. 4, 2020 3:42 p.m.

Michael Forest Reinoehl’s death came as VICE News aired an interview in which he said he shot a Patriot Prayer supporter in what he believed was self defense.

Just hours after an interview was posted online in which Michael Forest Reinoehl took responsibility for the fatal shooting of a Patriot Prayer supporter in downtown Portland, Reinoehl was killed in an attempted arrest in Lacey, Washington, near Olympia.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge authorized a warrant Thursday for Reinoehl’s arrest in the Aug. 29 shooting on a charge of murder. Just before 7 p.m., members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force were waiting outside an apartment where they believe Reinoehl was staying.

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They confronted Reinoehl as he was trying to get into a vehicle, and the shooting began.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Reinoehl had a gun and was “threatening the lives of law enforcement officers.” It’s not clear whether Reinoehl fired at them.

U.S. Marshals were present but were not the officers who killed Reinoehl, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department. Other jurisdictions involved in the task force were the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Lakewood Police Department and the Washington Department of Corrections.

Officials work at a scene late Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., the week before was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash. Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, a senior Justice Department official said. Reinoehl was the prime suspect in the killing of 39-year-old Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was shot in the chest Saturday night, the official said.

Officials work at a scene late Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., the week before was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash. Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, a senior Justice Department official said. Reinoehl was the prime suspect in the killing of 39-year-old Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was shot in the chest Saturday night, the official said.

Ted Warren / AP

According to The Olympian, eyewitnesses said they heard 25 to 50 shots.

In an interview with VICE conducted by freelance journalist Donovan Farley this week, Reinoehl appeared to acknowledge shooting Danielson. Farley reported that Reinoehl said he went downtown Saturday night to provide security for racial justice protesters who felt threatened by a caravan of Trump supporters that paraded through the city center.

Reinoehl said he and a friend ended up in a standoff with a man he says had a knife.

“Had I stepped forward, he would have maced or stabbed me,” Reinoehl told VICE. “ ... I was confident that I did not hit anyone innocent and I made my exit.”

Reinoehl told VICE he considered the shooting an act of self-defense.

“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,” he 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 not been arrested or publicly named as either a suspect or a person of interest in the killing of 39-year-old Portland resident Aaron J. Danielson prior to his death. Earlier Thursday, a spokesperson for the Multnomah County district attorney said the office had no comment and the investigation remained ongoing.

Reinoehl’s sister told OPB that Portland police asked her to identify a man in photos from protests after Saturday’s shooting. She told them he was her estranged brother. The sister spoke on the condition that she not be named because, she said, her family has received death threats.

“Portland police asked me to confirm from the pictures that were included in those threatening messages if it was indeed my brother,” she said. “I said ‘I haven’t seen him in three years, but it looks like it is him. The tattoo is new, but it looks like it could be him.’”

Photographs on social media showed a man appearing to be Reinoehl with a fist tattoo on his neck; in photos, the tattoo looks similar to the symbol associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Reinoehl’s Instagram account was removed several hours after news emerged of his death.

Reinoehl, who is white, has ties to the area with addresses in Portland, Clackamas and Sandy.

Reinoehl’s sister described her brother as erratic and self-destructive.

“I do know he has a temper, and I do know he acts very badly to being provoked,” Reinoehl’s sister told OPB.

A shift on social media

It’s not clear whether Reinoehl and Danielson knew each other or had interacted at other political rallies during Portland’s summer of racial justice demonstrations before they crossed paths Aug. 29.

Reinoehl, a 48-year-old former professional snowboarder, appears to have attended many of the nightly protests, according to posts on his Instagram account.

His social media account depicts a dramatic shift at the end of May, coinciding with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Prior Instagram posts depict Reinoehl snowboarding at Ski Bowl near Mount Hood, photos of his children, a video of a hike on Rocky Butte, pictures with his husky, a photo from the top of Portland’s Mount Tabor Park, as well as artful scenes of sun rises, sunsets, trees and nature.

But starting May 30, Reinoehl’s posts are almost exclusively scenes from Portland’s protests.

“He’s the kind of person who should have stayed as far away from the protests as possible, because he’s not the kind of person who could rationally work through that intense environment,” his sister said.

The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported that Reinoehl was a person of interest police were investigating in connection with Saturday night’s shooting.

Police officials work at a scene where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., last week was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, a senior Justice Department official said. Reinoehl was the prime suspect in the killing of 39-year-old Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was shot in the chest Saturday night, the official said.

Police officials work at a scene where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., last week was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Michael Reinoehl, 48, was killed as a federal task force attempted to apprehend him in Lacey, a senior Justice Department official said. Reinoehl was the prime suspect in the killing of 39-year-old Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was shot in the chest Saturday night, the official said.

Ted Warren / AP

Protests and a fatal shooting

Around 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 29, a Saturday night, two shots were fired near the corner of Southwest Third Avenue and Alder Street.

The shooting was captured on video from a distance and posted online, so it’s difficult to determine exactly what happened.

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The footage begins with several seconds of shouting. A man in a white shirt appears to walk out into Third Avenue, he pauses, then shots are fired. The man in the white shirt briefly hesitates after the shots and then turns and runs. Someone shouts “Go! Go! Go!” Almost simultaneously, another man is seen taking a few steps in the other direction and then collapsing on the ground.

The whole incident appears to unfold in about 10 seconds. In that same video, police in riot gear arrive on the scene in less than a minute. Danielson died from a single gunshot wound to the chest, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner said Monday.

Danielson was a supporter of the far-right regional political group Patriot Prayer. Since 2016, when the group was formed, its members have engaged in violence during protests in Portland with anti-fascist counter-demonstrators.

Danielson took part in the massive rolling Trump demonstration, called the Trump 2020 Cruise Rally, that took place on Aug. 29, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson told The Lars Larson Show this week.

The caravan began at Clackamas Town Center, but ended up driving through downtown Portland. Many of the hundreds of vehicles were decked out in Trump flags and signs. At times, participants sprayed racial justice protesters with pepper spray from the back of pickup trucks. On a few occasions, vehicles in the caravan tried to drive through crowds of counter-demonstrators, though no serious injuries were reported.

At the time he was killed, Danielson wore a Patriot Prayer hat and a holster carrying mace with a pro-police patch sewn onto it.

Other interactions with law enforcement

Michael Reinoehl has had several recent run-ins with law enforcement.

On June 8, court records show he was stopped by Oregon State Police on Interstate 84 in Union County at 12:47 a.m.

He’s accused of racing against his 17-year-old son.

The two vehicles were traveling at 111 miles per hour when Reinoehl was pulled over, according to state police records. A state trooper found unidentified prescription pills inside the 2005 Cadillac STS Reinoehl was driving, an unspecified amount of cannabis, and a concealed and loaded Glock pistol. Reinoehl didn’t have a concealed handgun license, according to state police.

Reinoehl was charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants, unlawful possession of a firearm, recklessly endangering another person — his 11-year-old daughter was in the car with him — and reckless driving, according to court records. In addition to his daughter, a kitten and a large dog were inside the car.

The incident was first reported in June by the Baker City Herald.

A month later, at 2:10 a.m. on July 5, Reinoehl was cited downtown by Portland police for resisting arrest, interfering with an officer and possession of a loaded firearm in a public place.

That case remains an on-going investigation with the Multnomah County district attorney’s office and the Portland Police Bureau, according to a spokesman for the DA’s office.

Reinoehl’s Instagram feed from the summer show he regularly attended the downtown Portland protests.

A photo he posted on June 3 on Instagram shows protesters and law enforcement on opposite sides of a metal fence.

“It might be time to take A New Perspective on things,” Reinoehl wrote. “Things are bad right now and they can only get worse. But that is how a radical change comes about. Hopefully, if we do it right the people will prevail and in turn Common Sense will save our planet.”

On June 16, Reinoehl wrote on Instagram that he was among the many protesters who he said didn’t know where their actions would lead.

“I am 100% ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters!” he wrote. “We do not want violence but we will not run from it either.”

In that same Instagram post, Reinoehl wrote that there was an opportunity to “fix everything.”

“But it will be like a fight like no other! It will be a war and like all wars, there will be casualties,” he said. “I was in the army and I hated it.”

While Reinoehl’s sister said she had a vague recollection of her brother being in the service, a U.S. Army spokesperson was unable to find any records connected to Reinoehl in an Army database. Records later provided to OPB show Reinoehl served in the Army from March 1992 to June 1993.

“I did not feel like fighting for them would ever be a good cause,” Reinoehl wrote. “Today’s protesters and antifa are my brothers in arms. This is a Cause to fight for [sic] This truly is fighting for my country!”

‘He was going to get himself killed’

The first report of Reinoehl’s death came into the Thurston County, Washington, emergency dispatch line at 6:54 p.m. Thursday. Multiple people called 911 to report gunshot rounds in Tanglewilde, outside Olympia. Callers reported people “running all over” and possibly 10 men, “all in their 20s and 30s,” with weapons.

A car with shattered windows and likely bullet holes stands in the area where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., last week was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

A car with shattered windows and likely bullet holes stands in the area where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., last week was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him in Lacey, Wash., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

Ted Warren / AP

Dispatchers were preparing to send deputies to the scene when one noted: “Just for information, these may be the U.S. Marshals ... They were looking for a suspect in a shooting from Portland.”

Late Thursday night, Reinoehl’s estranged sister said she had heard rumors this week he was in custody. And she hoped they were true — for her brother’s sake.

“I knew if he was out there he was going to get himself killed one way or another, but I didn’t think it would be with the police,” she said.

She said she was both angry with her brother and sad at his death.

“It’s awful,” she said. “This whole thing is awful. There’s a lot of people out there who feel like violence is the only solution to fixing things now, people on both sides.”



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