Witness: Officers Never Gave Commands Before Killing Michael Reinoehl
Above photo: Police walk past evidence markers at a scene Thursday, Sept. 3, in Lacey, Wash., where a man suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., last week was killed as investigators moved in to arrest him. Ted Warren/AP.
Officers who first confronted Michael Forest Reinoehl outside an apartment complex in Washington last week yelled no warnings or commands before firing and killing the Oregon man wanted on a murder warrant in the death of a right-wing demonstrator in Portland, according to a witness now represented by a lawyer.
Nathaniel Dingess, 39, lives in the apartment complex near Lacey, Washington, where Reinoehl apparently was hiding.
Dingess said he saw Reinoehl walk toward his car holding a cellphone in his hand when two unmarked law enforcement vehicles converged outside the complex in the 7600 block of Third Way Southeast last Thursday night. Officers began firing at Reinoehl, according to a statement issued by Dingess’ lawyer, Luke Laughlin, on his behalf.
Reinoehl ducked for cover near his car, but it was blocked by police cars and he never got into it, according to Dingess.
“Officers shot multiple rapid-fire rounds at Reinoehl before issuing a brief ‘stop’ command, quickly followed by more rapid-fire shooting by additional officers,” according to the statement.
Dingess said he never saw a handgun on Reinoehl or saw him reach for anything.
Other witnesses told The Olympian the night of the shooting that Rienoehl had a gun, and they reported hearing dozens of gunshots fired before Reinoehl lay dead in the street. An officer was caught on one witness’ video doing CPR on Reinoehl as he was motionless in the street.
Police have said Reinoehld was found with a handgun but have not said if he fired any shots at officers.
Reinoehl died from multiple gunshots at the scene. Thurston County’s coroner was conducting an autopsy Wednesday afternoon.
Reinoehl, a self-described anti-fascist who said he provided security for Black Lives Matter protests, was wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, on Aug. 29 shortly after a pro-Trump caravan drove through downtown Portland. Patriot Prayer is a loosely organized right-wing group based in Vancouver that has often come to Portland to clash with left-wing, antifa opponents.
At 4:49 p.m. last Thursday, a Multnomah County judge had signed a warrant for Reinoehl’s arrest on charges of second-degree murder with a firearm and unlawful use of a firearm.
Dingess, an ordained minister of 19 years, fears for his and his family’s safety for speaking out in what has become a flashpoint in the political swirl around Portland’s ongoing protests, according to his lawyers.
Laughlin and other lawyers are calling for an independent authority to investigate the shooting of Reinoehl, arguing that the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is not an uninvolved party.
“Given the political sentiment of the deceased, and the national climate regarding police shootings, the investigation ought to be handled by an outside organization without ties to law enforcement, if it can really be considered fair and neutral,” Laughlin said. “The law requires, and Reinoehl’s family and the public deserve, transparency and accountability. At a time when public outcry over police killings is at its peak in this country, it is imperative that the circumstances of Reinoehl’s death not be swept aside.”
Laughlin said he nor his client, Dingess, would answer questions Wednesday.
Attorney Leslie Cushman, the citizen sponsor of Washington’s Initiative 940, which passed in November 2018 and requires independent investigations into police use of deadly force, also is urging another agency to handle the inquiry into Reinoehl’s shooting.
Thurston County Sherif’s Office is the lead agency investigating the shooting as part of Washington’s Region 3 Critical Incident Investigation Team, according to Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady.
“We were not involved in the incident all all, not involved in the use of force, so I’m not sure what they’re implying,” Brady said.
The critical investigation team is the independent group designated to conduct the inquiry into the police shooting, the lieutenant said. No one from the team was present at the police shooting, and none of its members work for the agencies that were involved in the shooting, according to Brady.
Brady said he didn’t have any information regarding whether Reinoehl fired any shots or produced his handgun during the encounter that night.
“We were advised that he had a weapon,” Brady said. “We understand the public’s desire for as many answers as we can, but we really want to be thorough and accurate.”
Four officers from several Washington law enforcement agencies assigned to the U.S. Marshals Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force were serving the arrest warrant when they shot and killed Reinoehl.
The four officers are from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Lakewood Police Department and the Washington Department of Corrections.
The night of the shooting, the U.S. Marshals Service issued a statement that said, “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.”