LACEY, Wash. - A man who said he believed a civil war was coming to America and was suspected of killing a right-wing protester in Portland, Oregon, died in a hail of gunfire in neighboring Washington state, officials and witnesses said.
The killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl shook a quiet suburb of Olympia, Washington Thursday evening - with bystanders ducking for cover behind automobiles from dozens of gunshots as four agents serving on a U.S. Marshals Service task force opened fire at Reinoehl.
Authorities said Reinoehl, 48, was armed with a semi-automatic handgun and a witness who was driving to the small apartment complex that Reinoehl was leaving said she saw him open fire from a car and the officers return fire.
Reinoehl then got out of the car and started running away but collapsed amid more gunfire, the witness, Deshirlynn Chatman, told The Olympian newspaper.
“He did open fire first,” she said in a video posted by The Olympian. Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department said investigators have not concluded whether Rienoehl fired any shots.
Another video that was shot during the immediate aftermath showed Reinoehl lying motionless on the street with law enforcement officers in tactical gear and automatic rifles milling around. After several minutes, one man performed chest compressions on Reinoehl.
“Yeah, I don't think he's going to make it,” Jashon Spencer narrated on the video that he posted on Facebook.
Brady said he did not believe the officers involved in the shooting had body cameras or dashboard cameras on their vehicles.
In a videotaped interview broadcast the evening of his death by Vice News, Reinoehl came close to admitting he shot Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer, on Aug. 29 after a caravan of President Donald Trump backers drove their pickup trucks through downtown Portland.
Reinoehl said he “had no choice” but to do what he did because he thought he and a friend were about to be stabbed.
“I hate to say it, but I see a civil war right around the corner,” Reinoehl, with a partially covered tattoo of a raised fist on the right side of his neck, said in the interview.
He told Vice News he was an anti-fascist but was not a member of antifa, an umbrella description for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events. Reinoehl previously described himself in a social media post as “100% ANTIFA.”
Facebook said on Friday they removed pages related to Patriot Prayer, whose members have brawled with protesters from antifa and other demonstrators in the past.
“They were removed as part of our ongoing efforts to remove violent social militias from our platform,” Facebook spokesperson Sally Aldous said.
It was not immediately clear where Reinoehl hid out in the five days that elapsed since shooting in Portland.
Brady said the “suspect” who was killed - he declined to name him as Reinoehl - left an apartment shortly around 7 p.m. Thursday, got into a vehicle, and was confronted by the task force members. They fired into the vehicle, Reinoehl got out and ran and was shot, Brady said.
Federal agents from the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service had located Reinoehl on Thursday after a warrant was issued for his arrest and Reinoehl pulled a gun during the encounter, a senior Justice Department official in Washington said. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
A U.S. Marshals Service statement issued later said the fugitive task force had “attempted to peacefully arrest him."
"Initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers. Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene,” the statement said.
U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task forces - comprised of deputy marshals, other federal agents and local law enforcement officers from a variety of agencies - are responsible for apprehending violent felons and other wanted suspects.
A warrant for Reinoehl’s arrest on a second degree murder charge and other charges had been approved by a judge in Portland on Thursday, Portland police said Friday.
Brady said the four task force members who fired their weapons were two Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, a police officer from the Washington city of Lakewood and Washington State Department of Corrections officer.
Brady said investigators haven’t yet determined how many rounds were fired but witnesses Chad Smith and Chase Cutler, who were working on cars nearby, told The News Tribune they saw two SUVs converge on a man in a vehicle at the apartment complex. They said they heard 40 to 50 shots, the Tacoma, Washington, newspaper reported.
Brady said he doesn’t think the suspect lived at the address where he was shot, and that it was not clear what brought him to Lacey, on the outskirts of Olympia, the state capital.
Trump for months has criticized violent protests in Portland and U.S. Attorney General William Barr praised agents for finding Reinoehl, who frequently participated in them.
Barr called the tracking down of Reinoehl "a significant accomplishment in the ongoing effort to restore law and order to Portland and other cities.” Trump in his re-election campaign has embraced a law-and-order theme.
Reinoehl’s sister, who requested her name not be used because of the threats she and her family have been receiving, said in an interview with The Associated Press Friday that she had been out of touch with him for three years and had no knowledge of his recent movements.
She said her brother's son and daughter “need to be allowed to grieve what happened.”
“My heart breaks for those kids but hopefully they can put their lives back together and sort through this and process the trauma that no one that young should ever have to deal with,” the sister said.
Records show that police in Portland cited Reinoehl on July 5 on allegations of possessing a loaded gun in a public place, resisting arrest and interfering with police.
On July 26, Reinoehl was shot near his elbow after he got involved in a scuffle in the city between an armed white man and a group of young people of color.
Protesters returned Thursday night to a law enforcement building that's a frequent site of protests in Portland. Police said demonstrators threw objects at officers and vehicles at the Penumbra Kelly building.
A vehicle drove through the protest, “narrowly missing people in the group,” a police statement said. The driver was later stopped and cited; police additionally arrested two protesters. Support vehicles that police said were used to block traffic were cited and one was towed.