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Ever since a member of “Patriot Prayer” group was shot and killed during a rally in downtown Portland on August 29, the police investigation has reportedly focused on 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl, an Army veteran and father of two who has provided what he called “security” at Black Lives Matter protests.
Reinoehl has not been arrested or charged, and Portland police declined to say if he is the target of their investigation into the killing of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was taking part in a pro-Trump rally with an estimated 600 trucks winding through the city that night.
But in a conversation with freelance journalist Donovan Farley provided to VICE News and airing in full Thursday night, Reinoehl said he believed he and a friend were about to be stabbed, and that he acted in self-defense.
“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.”
“I notified my friends of what I had seen and finished what I was doing with my son, got home and then received a phone call that it might be a good idea to come down there,” he said. “Security may be needed not knowing what that would entail. I had no idea what I was getting into.”
“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 said.
At 8:45 p.m., Reinoehl said he went to the aid of a friend surrounded by trucks laden with armed pro-Trump protesters. “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 found himself in a confrontation with a man who he says threatened him and another protester with a knife. “Had I stepped forward, he would have maced or stabbed me,” Reinoehl said.
Bystander video from multiple angles show a man who resembles Reinoehl and appears to have the same neck tattoo fire two shots at Danielson and then walk away. “I was confident that I did not hit anyone innocent and I made my exit,” he said.
Since the shooting, Reinoehl said he’s gone into hiding, and moved his children to a safe place after shots were fired into his house just hours after the incident. “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.”
He has not turned himself in, he said, because he believes right-wing protesters are collaborating with police, who will not protect him or his family.
He said at the time of the confrontation and the shooting, there were no police present to help. “There was definitely nobody in sight, no police officer, nobody at all that could intervene. It was a free-for-all. And the police were letting it happen,” he said.
— VICE News (@VICENews) September 3, 2020