The man suspected of fatally shooting a conservative activist during a protest in downtown Portland has claimed he acted in self-defense, saying he believed a friend was about to be “stabbed” and “had no choice” but to open fire.
Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, told Vice News in an interview on Thursday that he feared for his life just before the shooting last weekend, which left Aaron ‘Jay’ Danielson dead, who was taking part in a rally in support of US President Donald Trump at the time.
“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,” said Reinoehl, who claims to have provided “security” for ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in Portland and described himself in social media posts as “100% Antifa” and ready for “war.”
I had no choice – I mean, 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.
To date, no witnesses have come forward to corroborate Reinoehl’s version of events, which appears to contradict footage captured at the time of the shooting. Though one clip records only audio of the confrontation, a man is heard shouting “He’s macing you, he’s pulling it out,” seconds before gunfire erupts. Other footage taken from a different angle appears to show Danielson discharge a cloud of pepper spray, and is at no point seen brandishing a knife. It is not clear what started the altercation.
Though Reinoehl is reportedly a main suspect in the Portland Police Bureau’s homicide investigation, no arrests have yet been made, in contrast to another recent protest-related shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The suspect in that case, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested less than 24 hours after the event and has since been charged with first-degree intentional homicide.
Chandler Pappas, who accompanied Danielson to the Trump rally on Saturday night and stood a mere feet away from the shooting, said he believes the pair was singled out because they looked like easy targets, also claiming neither he nor Danielson had encountered the shooter before that moment.
“I think the two of us alone, away from the rest of the Trump rally with all the trucks and all the other noise going on, I think they isolated us and thought they could get away with it,” Pappas said in an interview streamed to Facebook. “I think they were looking for somebody to hurt. I think they were looking for somebody just like us, who was down there unprotected.”
Protests have raged in Portland for some 100 consecutive days, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. After enduring a deployment of federal agents to the city earlier this summer, the demonstrations are ongoing, seeing frequent clashes between activists and law enforcement and showing few signs of slowing down.
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