The man accused of shooting five people, killing one, near Portland’s Normandale Park last year pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges on Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Benjamin Smith, 44, faces the potential of life in prison. He’ll be sentenced on April 18. Victims will get to make impact statements during that hearing.
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Marshall told members of the public gathered for the guilty plea that the proceeding was an attempt to make sense of a situation “that shouldn’t be part of the human experience.”
“I’m sorry you have to hear these things,” Marshall later told the courtroom before reading some of the details of the case.
Smith appeared in court on Wednesday in blue jail scrubs. He sat next to his defense attorney for most of Wednesday’s brief hearing.
One by one, Smith pleaded guilty to nine charges, including second-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and four assault charges.
On Feb. 19, 2022, Smith came out of his Northeast Portland apartment and started yelling at a small group of people who participated in a peaceful racial justice march. According to witnesses, attempts to de-escalate failed and Smith drew a handgun, firing at the group.
Smith shot and killed June Knightly, 60, a longtime racial justice activist. Another unnamed victim was paralyzed from the neck down, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. Smith’s bullets also struck three other people.
During the shooting, an armed bystander returned fire, critically injuring Smith.
Beyond pleading guilty, Smith did not deliver any type of statement to the court on Wednesday.