Review: Suspect in Portland protest killing likely fired at police before being fatally shot

LACEY, WA - SEPTEMBER 03: Investigators work the scene at Tanglewilde Terrace where law enforcement shot and killed a man who is reportedly Michael Forest Reinoehl on September 3, 2020 in Lacey, Washington. Reinoehl was being investigated by law enfo

A fugitive wanted in the highly-publicized killing of a demonstrator in Portland, Oregon, last summer probably fired first at police in Washington state before they fatally shot him, investigators found.

A U.S. Marshals-led task force was trying to arrest Michael Reinoehl, 48, near Olympia last September when four officers fired at him as he exited his car. Reinoehl was on the run after being named a suspect in the killing of the man following a demonstration in support of former President Donald Trump.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said in a summary of its findings Wednesday that based on witness and officer statements, along with a spent shell casing found in the vehicle that matched a gun Reinoehl was carrying, investigators believed Reinoehl fired first at the officers from inside the vehicle.

But a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Lt. Cameron Simper, said investigators could not confirm that "with 100% certainty" because they never found the bullet.

The full investigation has not been made public. The sheriff’s office forwarded it to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office for a review of whether the shooting was justified or whether charges are warranted.

According to a summary of the findings released Wednesday, the officers at the scene with Reinoehl said that he failed to comply with their commands and that he reached for his gun. Witnesses reported that the task force was readily identifiable because of their badges, vests and markings.

Forensic tests confirmed that the loaded .380-caliber handgun found on Reinoehl was the same weapon he used to kill Aaron "Jay" Danielson after the Aug. 29 pro-Trump demonstration in Portland. Reinoehl described himself as an antifascist and said he had previously provided security for Black Lives Matter protests.

The task force tracked Reinoehl to an apartment complex in Lacey, Washington, on Sept. 3. As he got into his car, officers pulled up in two unmarked SUVs to prevent him from driving away.

The shooting began as they exited the vehicles, with the officers who fired reporting that Reinoehl ignored commands to stop and show his hands, the sheriff’s office has said. The four officers fired more than 30 bullets.

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