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Man suspected in killing of Spokane-raised protester in Portland dies during arrest, New York Times reports

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 3, 2020

Michael Forest Reinoehl, right, at a protest in front of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s residence on Friday.  (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian)
Michael Forest Reinoehl, right, at a protest in front of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s residence on Friday. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian)

A self-described antifa activist under investigation for the killing of a conservative protester in Portland on Saturday was killed Thursday night in Lacey, Washington, as law enforcement moved to arrest him, according to the New York Times.

The Portland Police Bureau had not formally named Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, as a suspect in the death of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, who was associated with the conservative group Patriot Prayer and who was raised in Spokane before moving to Portland two decades ago. But Reinoehl himself discussed the killing in an interview that aired Thursday night.

“You know, lots of lawyers suggest that I shouldn’t even be saying anything,” Reinoehl told “Vice News Tonight.” “But I feel it’s important that the world gets at least a little bit of what’s really going on, because there’s been a lot of propaganda put out there. I had no choice. I mean, I had a choice: I could’ve sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color. But I wasn’t going to do that.”

Michael Forest Reinoehl spoke Thursday on Vice News on the killing of Aaron "Jay" Danielson at a Portland protest, saying it was self-defense.  (Vice News)
Michael Forest Reinoehl spoke Thursday on Vice News on the killing of Aaron "Jay" Danielson at a Portland protest, saying it was self-defense. (Vice News)

Friends and associates of Danielson have strongly pushed back on the claim that he was an aggressor in the situation, with some arguing he was a target of left-wing protesters.

Citing three unnamed law enforcement sources, the New York Times said Reinoehl was killed as a federal fugitive task force was moving to arrest him.

Danielson was killed Saturday, at about 8:45 p.m., at Southwest Third Avenue and Southwest Alder Street in downtown Portland, according to a news release from the Portland Police Bureau.

An autopsy by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office “determined the manner of death to be homicide and the cause of death gunshot wound of chest,” according to a Portland police news release.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told KOIN 6 News on Thursday that the investigation into the killing was ongoing.

“We don’t even have all the facts yet,” Wheeler said. “We haven’t been able to speak to all of the witnesses. We haven’t been able to process all of the video that’s come from local businesses.”

In his Thursday interview with “Vice News Tonight,” Reinoehl did not deny killing Danielson, although he did defend it as an act of self-defense, believing he was going to be stabbed, and couched it in terms of an ideological battle.

“Honestly, I hate to say it, but I see a civil war right around the corner,” he said. “That that shot felt like the beginning of a war.”

Reinoehl has described himself as “100% ANTIFA” in social media posts and has a prominent Black Lives Matter tattoo. Danielson was wearing a Patriot Prayer hat when he was killed.

The killing occurred after a caravan of protesters supporting President Donald Trump drove through downtown Portland and clashed with left-wing counterprotesters.

The confrontation was the latest in a series of violent confrontations between groups advocating for police reform and against systemic racism, on one side, and right-wing causes, on the other.

One amateur observer livestreamed the moments leading up to the shooting and the shooting itself . The video, filmed from across the street, appears to show a confrontation that involves bear spray being deployed, though it’s not clear by whom, and two gunshots being fired at Danielson from close range.

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