Criminal Justice

Investigators Say Portland Activist Michael Reinoehl Likely Fired at Police Before He Was Fatally Shot

Reason is still waiting on public records related to the shooting after a judge blocked its requests until the investigation was completed.


Police investigators say Michael Forest Reinoehl, a Portland, Oregon, activist wanted for killing another man during ongoing street battles in that city last summer, likely shot at police before he was killed by a fugitive task force in Lacey, Washington, last September.

The Thurston County Sheriff's Office (TCSO) in Washington issued a press release today summarizing the findings of its seven-month investigation into the fatal shooting of Reinoehl. The TCSO says Reinoehl refused to comply with commands to surrender and reached for a gun.

"Witness statements indicate that there was an exchange of gunfire, which was initiated by Reinoehl from inside his vehicle," the TCSO press release says. "During the exchange, Reinoehl was struck by gunfire, and he died as a result."

Reinoehl, a self-proclaimed anti-fascist, was charged with second-degree murder in the August 29, 2020, shooting death of Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron Danielson in Portland. Reinoehl had been wanted for five days when a federal fugitive task force caught up with him in Lacey. The circumstances surrounding Reinoehl's shooting were murky. Task force agents said Reinoehl either pointed a gun or was in the process of drawing a gun when he was shot. However, civilian eyewitnesses said the police didn't announce themselves before killing Reinoehl in a barrage of gunfire. None of the law enforcement officers in the task force were wearing body cameras. 

In the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump frequently bragged about the killing.

Investigators found a .380 pistol in Reinoehl's possession and a fired .380 shell casing in his vehicle. The casing in Reinoehl's vehicle was fired from the pistol found in his possession, according to the TCSO.

"While it is very plausible and it does match up with the statements, we were not able to find the actual round from (Reinoehl's pistol) to definitively say, 'absolutely' that he fired from that car," TCSO Lt. Cameron Simper told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "Based on our investigation, based on the witness statements, the casing in the car, and officers' statements, it is highly likely."

Reason requested public records regarding the shooting last September, but a Washington state superior court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC), one of the agencies on the task force, to block their release until the TCSO completed its investigation. Reason is expecting to get those records shortly from the DOC and other agencies that participated in the task force.

The TCSO has referred its findings to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine if criminal charges will be filed.