Nearly three years after Antifa member Michael Forest Reinoehl was killed by police while being arrested for murdering 39-year-old Trump supporter Aaron Danielson, his estate has filed a lawsuit against law enforcement and government agencies alleging their only plan that day was to use deadly force.
Reinoehl, 48, had been on the run for five days when he was shot multiple times by officers on September 3, 2020 while in his vehicle outside an apartment complex in Lacey, Washington. Authorities claimed he had reached for something, presumably a gun, before they discharged their weapons.
The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday, claims Reinoehl's Fourth Amendment rights were violated, and seeks compensation for his death and the emotional trauma the incident brought his children. It names the United States, Washington state, Pierce County, and the city of Lakewood, as well as the four officers who had fired 40 shots during the attempted arrest.
The officers, Pierce County Sheriff's Deputies James Oleole and Craig Gocha, Lakewood Police officer Michael Merrill and Washington State Department of Corrections Officer Jacob Whitehurst, were all members of the US Marshals Violent Offender Task Force.
Reinoehl's estate alleged in their complaint that authorities had included "inaccurate, misleading, incomplete, and/or out of context information" in their briefing to officers prior to the arrest, including suggestions that Reinoehl considered himself to be "at 'war' with police."
The estate also claimed that the briefing failed to properly lay out a plan for Reinoehl's arrest, and that radio communication between the officers was "delayed, poor-quality, garbled, hampered by static, and/or otherwise inadequate and unreliable." As a result, they argued, the officers had no chain of command and ended up botching the operation.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, multiple witnesses on the scene stated that the officers arrived in unmarked vehicles and did not put their sirens or lights on before shooting at Reinoehl. A firearm was located in his pocket, but it was unclear whether it had been discharged.
Following Reinoehl's death, then-attorney general Bill Barr released a statement calling the officers' work "a significant accomplishment in the ongoing effort to restore law and order to Portland and other cities."
Danielson's death had come at the end of a summer marked by deadly riots amid the death of George Floyd.
"The streets of our cities are safer with this violent agitator removed," Barr added, "and the actions that led to his location are an unmistakable demonstration that the United States will be governed by law, not violent mobs."
President Donald Trump called Reinoehl's death "retribution" for the killing of Aaron Danielson.
After fatally shooting Danielson, Reinoehl fled Portland. While on the run, he was interviewed by Vice, and claimed that he had acted in self-defense. Video footage later revealed that he had actually stalked Danielson before carrying out the attack.
Danielson's estate sued Portland, accusing city leadership and law enforcement of having "failed to find an effective response to clashing groups of protesters," but a judge later dismissed the suit.
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