Law enforcement agents in Washington killed a suspect on Thursday night in the shooting death of a right-wing activist in Portland, Ore., last week, the latest development in the protests and counterdemonstrations that have escalated tensions in the city and drawn the nation’s attention.
The suspect, Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, was shot by officers in Lacey, Wash., as they tried to arrest him, law enforcement officials said. The right-wing activist, Aaron J. Danielson, 39, had been shot five days earlier in Portland, and an arrest warrant had been issued for Mr. Reinoehl earlier on Thursday.
Mr. Reinoehl’s death is also playing out during a broader confrontation between opposing visions for the nation, as protesters demanding racial justice clash with right-wing activists on the streets in events that have become increasingly politicized ahead of the presidential election.
Mr. Reinoehl was shot by officers from a federally led fugitive task force, four law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said on Thursday, around 7 p.m. in a residential area of Lacey, a town southwest of Seattle.
According to Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting of Mr. Reinoehl, a police team was in the area looking for a homicide suspect, though the lieutenant did not mention Mr. Reinoehl by name. The suspect left an apartment and entered a vehicle, where he was approached by the police officers. A “confrontation” followed, Lieutenant Brady said.
“As they attempted to apprehend him, there was gunfire,” he said, saying that four officers fired their weapons and that the suspect was thought to be armed. Shots were fired into the vehicle and the suspect fled, then more shots were fired.
The Portland police had issued a warrant for Mr. Reinoehl’s arrest earlier on Thursday, according to The Olympian, a local news outlet, and had enlisted U.S. Marshals to find and arrest him.
Mr. Reinoehl had spoken about the Portland shooting.
Mr. Reinoehl, who is from a suburb of Portland, was a father of two who had said he was an Army veteran. He had been a familiar face at the protests for weeks, and described himself in posts on social media as an anti-fascist activist. He also previously described providing “security” at the protests.
“I am 100% ANTIFA all the way!” he posted on Instagram in June, referencing the loose collection of activists that have mobilized to oppose what they see as fascism or racism. That same post was also laced with violent messages.
“We truly have an opportunity right now to fix everything,” he wrote. “But it will be a fight like no other! It will be a war and like all wars there will be casualties.”
In an interview with Vice News, published earlier on Thursday, Mr. Reinoehl appeared to admit to the shooting of Mr. Danielson, and said he believed he had acted in self-defense.
“Had I not acted, I am confident that my friend and I am sure, I, would have been killed, because I wasn’t going to stand there and let something happen,” he said in the interview.
Portland’s protests have simmered for months.
At the height of the protests this summer, federal agents were sent to the city, further raising tensions; they were withdrawn weeks later. On Saturday, a large caravan of supporters of President Trump traveled through the city as a counterprotest, and a small contingent broke off and traveled through downtown.
Mr. Danielson, a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, was part of the group that entered downtown Portland. That group clashed with other protesters, firing paintball guns and pepper spray from trucks as they moved through the streets, and as protesters threw objects at them.
An investigation into videos taken in Portland on Saturday showed the moment of the shooting, in which Mr. Danielson can be seen raising his arm and beginning to spray a pepper spray-like substance before the gunshots are heard. Mr. Danielson died at the scene.
The deaths have come amid turmoil in other cities.
The shooting of Mr. Danielson and the subsequent death of Mr. Reinoehl have raised fears that of confrontations between Black Lives Matter supporters and pro-Trump demonstrators in other cities could lead to more deadly skirmishes.
In Kenosha, Wis., demonstrations have gripped the city since mid-August when a white police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back as he entered his car with his three children in the back seat. Last week, two people were killed by a gunman as protesters clashed with counterprotesters.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17-year-old from Illinois who attended the Kenosha counterprotest armed with a military-style rifle, and whose social media accounts were filled with messages of support for the “Blue Lives Matter” movement and Mr. Trump, has been charged with homicide in that shooting.