Lacey, WA – The antifa gunman who was fatally shot by law enforcement after he allegedly killed a Trump supporter during a riot in Portland last summer initiated the exchange of gunfire that resulted in his death, according to investigators.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) announced the completion of its seven-month-long investigation into the officer-involved shooting on Wednesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, was already wanted for the murder of Aaron “Jay” Danielson in Portland when a federally-deputized task force tracked him down at an apartment complex in Lacey on Sep. 3, 2020.
Security footage showed Reinoehl, a self-described antifascist, initiating contact with Danielson outside a parking garage during a night of rioting in Portland on Aug. 29, 2020, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Investigators said Reinoehl fatally shot Danielson during the encounter.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) issued a warrant for the suspect’s arrest on Sep. 3, 2020, KATU reported.
PPB requested assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) in locating Reinoehl, KATU reported.
The Tacoma-based Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, which had been deputized by the USMS, soon tracked him to a home near Lacey, Washington, according to KATU.
The USMS Fugitive Apprehension Team went to the residence at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sep. 3 and spotted Reinoehl exiting an apartment and getting into a vehicle, police said.
But as the officers attempted to take the armed fugitive into custody, Reinoehl pulled a gun on them, according to the USMS.
The TCSO confirmed Wednesday that the task force members were all wearing vests clearly identifying themselves as law enforcement officers when the confrontation occurred, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“Initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers,” the USMS said in a statement to CNN at the time. “Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.”
TCSO Lieutenant Ray Brady told KATU that Reinoehl tried to run away from the vehicle at one point.
“There was a confrontation between the officers that were on scene and the subject,” Lt. Brady said at the time. “The information we have at this time is that the subject was armed. There was shots that were fired into the vehicle, and the subject fled from the vehicle at which time there was additional shots that were fired.”
Four officers discharged their weapons during the incident, Lt. Brady said.
Reinoehl died of his gunshot wounds at the scene, KATU reported.
TCSO has not released the full report, but did release a two-page statement on the incident on Wednesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
TCSO Lieutenant Cameron Simper, who oversaw the investigation, said Reinoehl was the only individual at the scene of the officer-involved shooting who was armed with a .380-caliber firearm.
Police said a .380-caliber casing located inside the suspect’s vehicle after the shootout matched the loaded .380-caliber handgun police found in the right front pocket of Reinoehl’s pants, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“The casing to that was found inside his vehicle in a position that would be consistent with him firing out that window,” Lt. Simper said.
Investigators said they believe Reinoehl fired his gun at police, then stuffed it into his pocket after he was shot, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
They were unable to locate the bullet the gunman fired during the shootout.
“While it is very plausible and it does match up with the statements, we were not able to find the actual round from (Reinoehl’s pistol) to definitively say, ‘absolutely’ that he fired from that car,” Lt. Simper told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Based on our investigation, based on the witness statements, the casing in the car and officers’ statements, it is highly likely.”
The investigative findings have been sent to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which is working to determine whether it will review the case for possible charges against the task force members, or if that responsibility will be passed on to another county, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
After Reinoehl’s death last year, several hundred rioters in Portland gathered outside a PPB station in a residential neighborhood to express their outrage, The New York Times reported at the time.
“There’s blood on your hands. You murdered Michael Reinoehl,” someone wrote outside the building.
“Michael was murdered,” another posting read.
Danielson was killed shortly after a “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally in Portland” caravan from Clackamas, Oregon, drove through downtown Portland on Aug. 29, 2020, CNN reported at the time.
Participants flew “Thin Blue Line” and “Trump 2020” flags from their motorcycles, trucks, and cars as the caravan traveled through the area.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said police were aware the demonstrators were headed to the city, so they attempted to block the caravan from reaching the downtown area where rioters had been attacking police and wreaking havoc for over 95 consecutive nights, CNN reported.
Despite those efforts, a portion of the pro-Trump caravan managed to “come into the downtown core,” Chief Lovell told reporters.
Video footage captured clashes between the groups on multiple occasions prior to the fatal shooting at 8:45 p.m., CNN reported.
Witness Justin Dunlap alleged that the shooting victim sprayed “bear mace” at someone prior to the gunfire, but that claim has not been verified.
Danielson was wearing a Patriot Prayer hat when one of the rioters fatally shot him in the chest, CNN reported.
He also had a Thin Blue Line flag patch on the satchel he was carrying, photos showed.
Danielson died in the middle of Southwest Third Avenue near Alder Street, according to The Oregonian.
Reinoehl, a self-proclaimed antifa, said in a prior interview that he “hated” his time serving in the U.S. Army, and that he ended up becoming a contractor and professional snowboarder instead, according to the paper.
The U.S. Army said it has no record that he ever served, CNN reported.
VICE News published an interview with the accused killer shortly before Reinoehl’s confrontation with the USMS.
In the interview, Reinoehl claimed he shot Danielson in self-defense because he believed Danielson was about to stab him and his friend, VICE News reported.
“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,” Reinoehl 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 said he had been in the downtown Portland area providing “security” nearly every night since the riots began, VICE News.
He said he spotted “hundreds of trucks with flags on them” throughout the day on Aug. 29, 2020, and that he later received a call that he should go downtown in case “security” was needed.
“I’m seeing all these vehicles with hatred, people in the backs of the trucks yelling and screaming and swinging bats and sticks at protesters that are just standing there yelling at them,” he claimed during the interview.
Reinoehl said he then saw “a dear and close friend of mine in the movement by himself basically confronting all these vehicles,” so he “joined up with him,” VICE News reported.
Reinoehl alleged that the Trump supporters were heavily armed.
He said he soon ended up in an argument with a man who he claimed threatened him and another rioter with a knife.
“Had I stepped forward, he would have maced or stabbed me,” Reinoehl claimed. “It was a free-for-all, and the police were letting it happen.”
Video of the shooting appeared to contradict his version of events.
The footage showed a gunman who looked like Reinoehl and had the same neck tattoo as he fired two rounds at Danielson and ran off, VICE News reported.
“I was confident that I did not hit anyone innocent and I made my exit,” he said of the incident.
Reinoehl said that Danielson’s supporters have fired guns at his house and declared “open season on Michael,” but that he couldn’t surrender to police because he believed they were collaborating with right-wing protesters, VICE News reported.
He said he and his family went into hiding, and that he had no regrets about shooting Danielson.
Reinoehl said he felt “totally justified [that] had I not acted, I am confident that my friend, and I’m sure I, would have been killed,” CNN reported.
“What they’ve done is they’ve tried to make it look like we’re all terrorists,” he complained. “And they’re trying to make me look like a murderer.”
He further explained that him shooting Danielson “felt like the beginning of a war,” VICE News reported.
“I see a civil war right around the corner,” he said.
Police zeroed in on Reinoehl after his 36-year-old estranged sister received a threatening phone call shortly before 8 a.m. on Aug. 30, 2020, The Oregonian reported.
The caller told her that her “whole family was in danger unless we turn him over,” the woman told the paper.
She reported the incident to police shortly before she saw screenshots of her brother online.
She then called PPB detectives and told them who the shooter was.
“We reached out to police and confirmed that we recognized Michael in the screenshots,” she told The Oregonian.
She said that she and her other family members had not spoken with Reinoehl for at least three years.
“On the one hand, this whole thing surprises the daylights out of us, because we always thought he is a lot of bark, not a lot of bite,” she told The Oregonian. “But he’s also been very impulsive and irrational.”
Reinoehl had been a regular participant in the nightly riots in downtown Portland, according to the paper.
During one such gathering on July 5, 2020, he was cited for possessing a loaded gun in a public place, interfering with police, and resisting arrest, The Oregonian reported.
But according to court records, prosecutors dropped all charges against him later that month without any documentation as to why.
According to the Oregon State Police (OSP), Reinoehl was also wanted for failing to show up to court in Baker County on charges of unlawful possession of a gun, recklessly endangering another, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, and driving while suspended and uninsured, The Oregonian reported.
The charges stem from a June 8, 2020. incident, during which he and his then-17-year-old son were allegedly racing one another on Interstate 84 at speeds of up to 111 miles per hour, according to the OSP.
Reinoehl had his 11-year-old daughter inside his vehicle at the time.
Investigators also found “unidentified prescription pills,” marijuana, and a loaded Glock handgun inside his car, The Oregonian reported.
Reinoehl did not have a concealed carry license, police said.
Antifa celebrated Danielson’s death in the wake of the fatal shooting, video footage showed.
“The person who died was a Patriot Prayer person,” a member of the riotous mob told the crowd. “He was a f–king Nazi! Our community held its own and took out the trash!”
“I am not going to shed any tears over a Nazi!” she added, as the mob cheered.
Patriot Prayer is a local right-wing group which has held Christian pro-Trump rallies in the Portland area. Their rallies have attracted antifa who show up to disrupt the events.
Many of the events have ended in rioting after the antifa turn violent.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown blamed the violence on Patriot Prayer, USA Today reported.
“The right-wing group Patriot Prayer and self-proclaimed militia members drove into downtown Portland last night, armed and looking for a fight,” Brown said in a statement. “Every Oregonian has the right to freely express their views without fear of deadly violence. I will not allow Patriot Prayer and armed white supremacists to bring more bloodshed to our streets.”
“Time and again, from Charlottesville to Kenosha to Portland, we have seen the tragic outcome when armed right-wing vigilantes take matters into their own hands,” the governor preached. “Gun violence is never, ever the answer.”