Danielson shooting suspect claims 'self defense' in TV report
Mayor Ted Wheeler is telling outsiders to not come to Portland to protest — and to not retaliate for the Aug. 29 shooting death of Aaron "Jay" Danielson following downtown confrontations between Trump supporters and counter-protesters.
In a wide-ranging interview with KOIN 6 News, Wheeler said the city is preparing for possible weekend demonstrations with the support of state law enforcement.
"What we do not need is groups confronting each other violently. But we will be prepared for it," he said.
Wheeler also updated the search for a suspect in Danielson's shooting, saying the investigation is underway.
"We don't even have all the facts yet. We haven't been able to speak to all of the witnesses. We haven't been able to process all of the video that's come from local businesses," he said.
Wheeler spoke as the shooting has become a national news story, with both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden weighing in on it.
Danielson, a Southwest Portland resident, had participated in a pro-Trump vehicle caravan that started at the Clackamas Town Center on Saturday evening. A number of the vehicles drove into downtown, where some of the participants reportedly fired paintball guns at counter-protesters, who threw objects back. Numerous clashes at and outside the vehicles also broke out.
Danielson, who was wearing a Patriot Prayer cap, was shot in the chest and died outside a parking garage at Southwest Third Avenue and Alder Street after the last vehicle left town. Police have not named the shooter, but VICE TV is scheduled to run a story Thursday night with Michael Forest Reinoehl saying he shot Danielson to defend a Black friend.
According to a press release from VICE TV, Reinoehl said he believed that he and his 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. 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," Reinoehl said in a preview to the report.
Reinoehl has reported described himself as a supporter of antifa, a loose-knit lieft-wing that has been active in Portland protests.
Trump paid homage to Danielson on Twitter later Saturday in a retweet of a tribute post to him shared by Women for Trump co-founder Amy Kremer. "Rest In Peace Jay!" Trump captioned the retweet.
Then, during a Monday press conference, Trump pushed back at a CNN reporter who asked if he would condemn his supporters who fired paintball guns at people.
"Paint is not bullets. Your supporters, your supporters, and they shot a young gentleman and killed him. Not with paint, but with a bullet," Trump snapped back.
During a Wednesday press conference, Biden also linked the paintball shootings to Danielson's death. After saying he thinks the judicial system should be allowed to work in the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Biden volunteered, "I might add, by the way, I think what happened in Portland, where a — one of the Trump guys riding along in vans, inciting responses, shooting rubber bullets, I guess, or paintballs, apparently there was someone shot by someone in the crowd, with a bullet," according to the Mediate website.
The back and forth drew a heated response from Danielson's father and step-mother later in the day, according to FOX 28 News in Spokane, where they live.
"They need to do their research better," the station reported Danielson's step-mother as saying. "They need to get their facts right, before they say something that's inciting and make this patriotic man look bad. All parents who lose a child want something good to happen, to come out of it. For us, the good outcome would be, bottom line, that this violence needs to stop. It needs to stop, before someone else's family member is killed."
Danielson's friends in Portland also protest how he has been portrayed on social media. They deny he was a racist or Nazi, or even a Trump supporter. Despite his acknowledged affiliation with Patriot Prayer, they say he was more supportive of the police and free speech.
"Aaron was not a radical. He was not a racist and he was not a fascist. He was not an inciter or an instigator. He was a freedom-loving American who died expressing his belief — a right which is given guaranteed to all of us through the constitution," said Luke Carrillo, a longtime friend and business partner of Danielson for nearly 20 years.
"Jay, I would say, one of his fears was he felt like the freedom and liberty were at risk. I wouldn't call him a Trump supporter. I would say he would be more libertarian or moderate. He believed in live and let live," said another friend who asked not to be identified.
Other friends tell the Portland Tribune that Danielson has been political for as long as they've known him, describing his views as conservative and patriotic. They said he had been attending the downtown protests virtually every night, travelling around town on an electric skateboard to record them on his phone and the post them on a YouTube channel that has been taken down since his death.
"He wanted to show people how the protests escalated every night," said one friend.
He said Danielson was not taking a stand on the protesters' issues, but was upset by the toll the repeated violence was taking on the city.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story.
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