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Aaron Danielson died 'expressing his beliefs,' but wasn't a staunch conservative, despite presence at rallies, friends say

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Luke Carrillo (center) reads a statement about his longtime friend and business partner, Aaron J. Danielson from the steps of Washington Park's International Rose Test Garden Monday, Aug. 30. With him, other friends of Danielson's who asked not to be identified. Danielson was shot and killed Aug. 29.From the steps of one of Portland's most iconic parks, friends of Aaron J. Danielson gathered Monday evening, Aug. 31, to share anecdotes of the man killed two nights prior.

Danielson, 39, was fatally shot Saturday evening, Aug. 29, in Portland, amid a Trump 2020 cruise-in rally that started east of Portland earlier that day and led a fleet of cars and trucks into the city's downtown area, where nightly Black Lives Matter demonstrations have taken place since June.

Luke Carrillo, a longtime friend and business partner of Danielson for nearly 20 years, held back tears as he stood on the steps of Washington Park's International Rose Test Garden and recalled a man who "loved being a Portlander" and loved showing the city to those who visited from out of town.

Friends say Danielson lived in Southwest Portland.

Another man who declined to give his name to reporters, noting privacy concerns, said he previously lived with Danielson, who many knew as "Jay."

COURTESY OF PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU - Aaron J. Danielson"He convinced me that marrying my wife was the right thing to do," the man said. "That's why he was at my wedding and why I have two beautiful daughters."

Danielson's friends say he wasn't politically aligned with the Trump supporters who showed up to rally in Portland the night of his death.

"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," Danielson's friend said, speculating, "I would say he would be more libertarian or moderate. He believed in live and let live."

Carrillo was more emphatic.

"Aaron Jay Danielson was not a radical," Carrillo told a group of reporters. "He was not a racist or a fascist. He was not an inciter or an instigator. He was a freedom-loving American who died expressing his beliefs, a right which is guaranteed to all of us through the Constitution."

Those who spoke about Danielson called his death an "unnecessary tragedy."

Danielson had been spotted at other protests and rallies in recent days and weeks, including those put on by Patriot Prayer, a far-right group. Hours before his death, he was spotted alongside Patriot Prayer members, and was interviewed by the Portland Tribune, but declined to offer much insight into what brought him to the demonstrations. Danielson came to Saturday's demonstrations dressed in tactical gear and carrying mace.

"We ask now that Portland, Oregon, and the entire country stand together and renounce any further acts of violence," Carrillo said. "No family or friends should ever have to deal with this type of loss for any reason, period."

The three men declined to stay to answer questions and only one man, Carrillo, identified himself.

The Portland Police Bureau is investigating the incident. A suspect in Danielson's death has yet to be formally announced.

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