OLYMPIA – A Washington state prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges against police who shot and killed an antifascist fugitive wanted in the highly publicized death last year of a right-wing demonstrator in Portland, Oregon, last year.
A U.S. Marshals-led task force was trying to arrest Michael Reinoehl, 48, at an apartment complex in Lacey, near Olympia, in September 2020 when four officers fired at him as he exited his car.
Reinoehl, who was armed, was on the run after being caught on surveillance video shooting Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, on Aug. 29, 2020, after a demonstration backing then-President Donald Trump.
Trump cheered on the manhunt for Reinoehl, tweeting just before he was killed for police to “Do your job, and do it fast.”
In a memo dated Monday, Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim found that the use of force was justified, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office previously determined that Reinoehl likely fired first at the officers, based on witness and officer statements as well as a spent shell casing discovered in Reinoehl’s vehicle.
Reinoehl’s gun – the same .380-caliber handgun he used to kill Danielson – had a fully loaded clip, but no bullet in the chamber. Investigators said they couldn’t prove when that shot was fired because they never found the bullet.
According to a summary of the investigative findings released last spring, the officers at the scene said that Reinoehl failed to comply with their commands and that he reached for his gun. Witnesses reported that task force members were readily identifiable because of their badges, vests and markings.
The officers who fired at Reinoehl were Jacob Whitehurst with the Washington Department of Corrections, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies James Oleole and Craig Gocha, and Lakewood police Officer Michael Merrill.
Braden Pence, an attorney representing Reinoehl’s family, called Tunheim’s report “disappointing but not surprising.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.