This past Saturday, someone shot and killed Trump supporter Aaron Danielson as a pro-police caravan of cars and trucks drove through Portland protesting the violent antifa riots that had ravaged the city for about 90 nights. On Thursday, Vice News published an interview with 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl, a man who matched the footage of the shooter. Reinoehl had attended the Portland riots nightly, had been arrested multiple times, identified himself as “ANTIFA,” and warned online that antifa stands for a violent revolution. Late Thursday evening, federal officials told The New York Times that Reinoehl died as federal agents closed in on his location in Lacey, Wash.
In the interview with freelance journalist Donovan Farley which Vice published, Reinoehl claimed that he acted in self-defense and to protect his friend “of color.” He did not exactly confess to having shot Danielson, but the interview heavily implied it.
“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 told Farley. “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.”
The pro-antifa likely shooter’s side of the story
Footage from the shooting shows someone shout, “We’ve got a couple here,” shortly before shots ring out. The shooter flees the scene as Danielson falls on the ground. Later on in the night, antifa rioters identified the victim as a supporter of the police, and celebrated that a “Fascist died tonight.”
“I was confident that I did not hit anyone innocent and I made my exit,” Reinoehl said of the shooting.
He said he became aware of the pro-Trump caravan while driving around the city with his son earlier in the day. After he returned home, friends called him, asking him to serve as “security.”
“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,” Reinoehl recalled. He said that at 8:45 p.m., he went to help a friend surrounded by trucks in the caravan. He insisted that the truck drivers were armed with far more than just paintball guns.
“I saw someone that is a dear and close friend of mine in the movement by himself basically confronting all these vehicles,” Reinhoel told Farley. “And so I let him know that I’m here, parked my vehicle and joined up with him, found myself in the intersection in front of the food trucks surrounded by trucks and cars that had weapons.”
He claimed that a man, presumably Danielson, threatened him and another protester with a knife. “Had I stepped forward, he would have maced or stabbed me,” Reinoehl argued.
Reinoehl insisted that he spoke with attorneys. “I’ve got a viable case for self-defense and protection because there’s a definite threat to my life,” he said.
Although he had posted on Instagram his identification with antifa, Reinoehl told Farley he was not a member of antifa. “They want to paint a picture of antifa having major involvement,” he said. “I am 100 percent anti-fascist. I’m not a member of antifa. I’m not a member of anything.”
Farley asked Reinoehl why he had not turned himself in to police.
“I feel that they’re trying to, you know, put other charges on me. They’ll find another way to keep me in,” Reinoehl answered. “Honestly, I hate to say it, but I see a civil war right around the corner. That that shot felt like the beginning of a war.”
A civil war?
The “civil war” talk seems reminiscent of an Instagram post Reinoehl published in June.
“Every revolution needs people that are willing and ready to fight,” Reinoehl wrote. “There are many of us protesters that are just protesting without a clue of where that will lead. That’s just the beginning that’s where the fight starts. If that’s as far and you can take it thank you for your participation but please stand aside and support the ones that are willing to fight.”
“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,” he added. “We are currently living through a crucial point in Humanities [sic] 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.”
The pro-antifa likely shooter dies
Reinoehl told Farley that someone shot at his house just hours after the incident. He had gone into hiding and had moved his children to a safe place.
“They’re out hunting me,” he said. “There’s nightly posts of the hunt and where they’re going to be hunting. They made a post saying the deer are going to feel lucky this year because it’s open season on Michael right now.”
Late Thursday evening, The New York Times reported that Reinoehl “was killed on Thursday night when authorities moved to arrest him, according to three law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.” A federal fugitive task force had moved to apprehend him after Portland police issued an arrest warrant on Thursday.
Reinoehl’s death is tragic, not just because all death is tragic but also because it makes it less likely the police will discover exactly what happened in the shooting. Antifa may also see Reinoehl as a martyr to the cause and ratchet up the violence in response to his death.
Now, the shooting of Aaron Danielson has left two potential martyrs: Danielson and Reinoehl.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.