48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl. Screen shot from Bloomberg Quick Take News
A Facebook livestream captured grainy video Saturday night that appears to show the moment a man — dressed in a white shirt, shorts, tube socks, and a black hat — shoots and kills Aaron J. Danielson, a supporter of the conservative group Patriot Prayer.
The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported that sources familiar with the case but not authorized to speak said 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl, a native of nearby Sandy, Oregon, is a suspect in the case. Reinoehl’s 36-year-old sister told The Oregonian that once she looked online and saw screenshots of her brother’s photo, she called Portland detectives.
“We reached out to police and confirmed that we recognized Michael in the screenshots,” she said.
The woman asked that her name not be used because she was awakened Sunday morning by a threatening phone call from someone who told her that “our whole family was in danger unless we turned him over.”
The Portland Police Bureau on Monday afternoon would not confirm or deny whether Reinoehl is being investigated for Danielson’s killing.
Reinoehl’s Instagram account is full of photos and video from the protests in Portland and messages of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. His posts frequently feature the hashtags #blacklivesmatter, #anewnation, and #breonnataylor.
On June 16, he posted this message on Instagram:
“I am 100% ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! Even if some of them are too ignorant to realize what antifa truly stands for. We do not want violence but we will not run from it either! If the police continue to pick on and beat up innocent citizens that are peacefully voicing their objections, it must be met with equal force! We are currently living through a crucial point in Humanities evolution. We truly have an opportunity right now to fix everything. But it will be a fight like no other! It will be a war and like all wars there will be casualties. I was in the army and I hated it. I did not feel like fighting for them would ever be a good cause. Today’s protesters and antifa are my brothers in arms. This is a Cause to fight for This truly is fighting for my country! I have children that need to live in a world run by Common Sense and human decency. And I will do anything to make sure that happens. Now is the time to change the course of humanity. If we fold now just because they show some Force we will be lost for another hundred years. And I don’t think the planet will let us live that long if we don’t straighten shit up. Please be safe strong and United. I love you all❤️?? #Antifa #blaklivesmatter #f***thepolice”
In a July 27 interview, Reinoehl told Bloomberg QuickTake News that he was providing personal security services for someone during the protests when he was shot in the arm days earlier. “I have military experience,” Reinoehl says while describing the incident.
At the time of publication, the US Army Human Resources Command could not confirm whether Reinoehl ever served in the Army.
The Oregonian reported that police cited Reinoehl at a downtown Portland protest July 5 for possessing a loaded gun in a public place, resisting arrest, and interfering with police, but court records show the allegations were dropped July 30. It’s unclear why the charges were dropped, but the decision preceded Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s tenure. Schmidt, who took office Aug. 1, angered many law enforcement officers and constituents recently when he announced his office would not pursue low-level charges against protesters.
“Reinoehl is also wanted on a failure to appear warrant in a June 8 speed racing case in Baker County in eastern Oregon,” according to The Oregonian. He “faces allegations including driving under the influence of a controlled substance, recklessly endangering another, unlawful possession of a gun and driving while suspended and uninsured.”
Saturday night’s shooting occurred shortly after most cars in a caravan of supporters of President Donald Trump had concluded their demonstration and left the downtown area.
In an interview posted to The Common Sense Conservative (CSC) YouTube channel, Chandler Pappas, a friend of Danielson’s who was with him when he was shot and killed, said he believes Danielson was targeted because he was wearing a Patriot Prayer hat. Pappas repeated lines that the video appears to capture just before Danielson was shot: “Hey, we got a couple of them right here. We got a couple right here. Pull it out.”
At 4:24 p.m. Saturday, Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling posted photos on Twitter of Pappas and another man, who appears to be Danielson, preparing paintball guns and tactical gear in the Clackamas mall parking lot before the demonstration in support of Trump.
“I’m here to stop people from assaulting these people,” Sparling quoted Pappas as saying.
Chandler Pappas and another man who declined to be interviewed are here with Patriot Prayer gear + paint ball guns + knives at the Trump rally in Portland
“I’m here to stop people from assaulting these people,” says Chandler pic.twitter.com/o2gDeMra0d
— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) August 29, 2020
Pappas described the encounter Saturday night that left Danielson dead:
“We turned around, and it didn’t even register that somebody was pointing a gun at us until the shots went off and they took off running. […] I didn’t have any idea who this guy is. I don’t think he knew who I was. I know he didn’t know who Jay was. Jay’s always kept his head down. He’s always just been mellow. I think the two of us alone away from the rest of the Trump rally with all the other trucks and all the other noise going on, I think they isolated us, and they thought they could get away with it.”
Although it’s unclear, the video appears to show Danielson or someone spraying mace or pepper spray toward the shooter at the same moment he opens fire. Two shots ring out as the shooter backs away from Danielson and then runs out of frame.
“Jay’s dead because he believed something different from them,” Pappas told CSC. “Jay’s not a racist. He’s not a xenophobe or whatever label. He’s not an -ist or an -ism. He’s an independent man, and he’s a good man. And he didn’t do anything to earn a bullet in the chest.”
Conservative journalist Andy Ngô posted video of a crowd of protesters cheering Saturday night when a woman who is a regular fixture at the Portland protests says, “I am not sad that a fucking fascist died tonight.”
“I am not sad that a f—ing fascist died tonight,” says a woman at the antifa gathering in downtown Portland. The crowd laughs and cheers. The ID of the deceased is not confirmed but he is believed to be a Trump & blue lives supporter. #PortlandRiots pic.twitter.com/XV6471FSuF
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 30, 2020
Local progressive politicians found themselves aligned with Trump Sunday morning as they attacked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner, for his handling of the unrest in the city. The president continued his vocal criticism on Twitter, and various local left-leaning groups called on Wheeler to resign in the wake of the fatal shooting.
Less than 24 hours after the shooting, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Oregon State Police — who pulled out of the city Aug. 13 after Schmidt announced his plans to decline prosecution of certain protest-related charges — would resume staffing Portland protests.
Brown also said she would authorize more police from state and local agencies to help authorities with the Portland protests, but sheriffs from neighboring Clackamas and Washington counties responded to Brown’s announcement saying they will not send deputies to help in Portland.
“Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said. “The only way to make Portland safe again, is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence.”
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett said his decision was based on a “lack of political support for public safety, the uncertain legal landscape, the current volatility combined with intense scrutiny on use of force.”
Ethan E. Rocke is a contributor and former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine, a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning photographer and filmmaker. He is a veteran of the US Army and Marine Corps. His work has been published in Maxim Magazine, American Legion Magazine, and many others. He is co-author of The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi.