The sister of Portland murder suspect Michael Forest Reinoehl, the 48-year-old man killed by police Thursday night in Washington, said she awoke Friday with a flood of emotions.
“I’m worried about his kids. I’m still in shock. I’m overwhelmed by this and what this means to the country at large. I’m sad that this whole thing happened,” she told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “And, I’m a little mad at him, to be honest, that all of this has happened in the first place.”
Reinoehl’s sister, an Oregon native who lives in the Portland area and is a 36-year-old married mother of two children, had been estranged from her older brother for the past three years. Reinoehl, who described himself as “100 % ANTIFA,” was the suspected gunman in a fatal encounter Saturday with a right-wing demonstrator after a pro-Trump rally rolled through downtown.
His sister said she was stunned when she received calls Thursday night telling her he’d been killed.
“I said a lot of ’What? What? Really? Oh my God … and then I kind of went numb,” she said. She asked that her name not be used because she’s afraid of retaliation.
She was surprised initially to learn it was police who had shot and killed him.
“That shocked me that it was the police, at first … but then I thought about it,” Reinoehl’s sister said. “There was no way that the Michael I knew would have gone quietly, although that would have been the right thing to do.
“I really had hoped he was in custody, because if he was out there, with his history of acting first and rationalizing later, odds were he was going to get himself killed.”
Officers with the U.S. Marshals Service Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force shot and killed Reinoehl as they tried to arrest him when he walked out of an apartment complex near Lacey around 7:30 p.m. Portland police earlier in the day had obtained a warrant to charge Reinoehl with second-degree murder with a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon.
Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady confirmed Friday that Reinoehl was armed with a handgun, but “we have not determined if he fired any shots at this time.”
Reinoehl headed to a station wagon parked in front of the apartment complex and officers shot at the car, Brady said. With the car boxed in by other vehicles, Reinoehl then stepped out and tried to run. Officers fired again. Reinoehl collapsed in the 7600 block of Third Way Southeast, where he died.
Area resident Jashon Spencer filmed the aftermath and posted a video on Facebook. “I was sitting in my backyard, and I all heard was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!” he said. “Come outside, there’s a million sheriffs out here and this dude laying by the mailbox. He bleeding…Damn they were not playing.”
Spencer said he thought it was fireworks at first. As he scanned the roadway where an officer was doing CPR on Reinoel’s chest, Spencer added, “See all those yellow markings. Those are bullets. They let loose on him.”
Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said Reinoehl was shot multiple times but he did not know how many.
Attorney General William P. Barr in a statement Friday said the streets are safer “with this violent agitator removed.”
“The tracking down of Reinoehl — a dangerous fugitive, admitted Antifa member, and suspected murderer — is a significant accomplishment in the ongoing effort to restore law and order to Portland and other cities,” the statement read. “The streets of our cities are safer with this violent agitator removed, and the actions that led to his location are an unmistakable demonstration that the United States will be governed by law, not violent mobs.”
Reinoehl was wanted in connection with the shooting of Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39. Video of the shooting suggested Reinoehl pulled a gun and fired two shots after Danielson had either grabbed a can of mace or bear spray. Danielson collapsed on Southwest Third Avenue and died from a single wound to the chest. Reinoehl immediately ran from the scene. A police affidavit said it appeared Reinoehl may have targeted Danielson.
Reinoehl’s sister said she’s unsure what led her brother to Washington state, and wondered if he had a friend from his snowboarding tour days that lived in that area or if he “just went there because it was a place to go.” Reinoehl’s social media posts listed him as a professional snowboarder and construction worker.
After her brother was caught on widely circulated video and photos at Saturday’s shooting, his sister said she contacted Portland homicide detectives to let them know that the person in the footage was Reinoehl. Police have not reached out to her again, she said.
“I get it when you care about a cause. I understand it when you’ve got to make a stand, but bringing a gun to a protest, that’s setting yourself up to make a bad decision especially when you have a habit of acting on impulse,” she said.
Michael Reinoehl has two children, a son and a daughter. The daughter was with family Friday, but Reinoehl’s sister said no one knows where his teenage son is now.
Reinoehl had said on social media that he provided security for the city’s ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. In an interview with a freelance journalist published Thursday night by Vice News, Reinoehl appeared to acknowledge his involvement in the shooting, contending he had to act in self-defense because he didn’t know if he and a Black friend with him were going to be maced or stabbed.
Reinoehl also referenced the pro-Trump caravan, saying “every time I see a big truck, especially with a flag on it, I immediately think they’re out to get me.”
Reinoehl’s sister said her brother “believed this country was already going to war, and he acted accordingly. Look where it got him. Two men dead and one of them is him.”
She said she fervently hopes his death doesn’t spark more violence.
“The peaceful majority can still talk things out and reason and find solutions,” she said. “When we were contacted by people filled with anger, we were able to deescalate the situation. No matter how angry they were, when you choose not to reflect back the anger that’s reflected on you, you can start a ripple of change that doesn’t rely on violence.
“I just hope my message gets through that peace is possible and don’t let the anger dividing this country tear us apart,” she said. “If you want to change the world, you need to be the change that you want to see.”
Reinoehl’s sister said she’s not angry at police. She believes officers wanted to put her brother in handcuffs and take him to jail.
“I think that was their intention. I don’t think that was Michael’s intention,” she said. “There’s only so much you can do with someone who doesn’t want to be taken in,” she said. “It wouldn’t be fair to blame them.”
Staff writer Noelle Crombie contributed to this story.
— Maxine Bernstein
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