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News Brief: Portland Shooting Suspect, Rochester Protests, Trump's Pennsylvania Visit

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The suspect in the fatal shooting in Portland, Ore., was killed as federal law enforcement moved in to arrest him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Several of the team members fired, and he is deceased here on the scene.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Police say Michael Forest Reinoehl was armed. He was suspected of killing a far right-wing demonstrator last weekend when a big caravan of President Trump supporters drove through downtown Portland. Now, Reinoehl was, 48 and he called himself an anti-fascist protester.

MARTIN: Oregon Public Broadcasting's Conrad Wilson has been covering this story and joins us on the line from Portland. Conrad, good morning. What do we know at this point about what happened last night?

CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: Well, yesterday, a judge here in Portland issued an arrest warrant for Michael Reinoehl. The warrant was for the murder of a supporter of a far right-wing group who had been in a protest last Saturday. According to the U.S. Marshal Service, around 7:30 last evening, they tried to arrest Reinoehl near Olympia, which is about two hours north of Portland. The marshals say they attempted to peacefully arrest him but that he had a firearm and threatened the lives of law enforcement officers. The officers then shot Reinoehl. He was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the marshals, no law enforcement officers were injured. And we should just say that, you know, many - there are many details we don't know yet about what's happened and, you know, it's very much a developing story.

MARTIN: Right. And all of this happened on the same night. VICE News actually aired an interview with Reinoehl, right? What did we learn from that?

WILSON: Yeah. So let's go back to Saturday night. Reinoehl was involved in racial justice protests in Portland. This was the same day as a massive caravan of vehicles drove through and around Portland in support of President Trump. Reinoehl told VICE News that he saw this caravan and headed downtown. So you had this environment with left and right-wing protesters coming together. Reinoehl was in the middle of it on the side of the racial justice protesters. And in the interview, he appears to confirm that he shot at someone. That person was Aaron J. Danielson, a supporter of this far right-wing regional political group called Patriot Prayer. They've engaged in violence during Portland protests since 2016 when they were established. And here's what Reinoehl told VICE.

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MICHAEL FOREST REINOEHL: I felt that my life and other people around me's lives were in danger. And I felt like I had no choice but to do what I did.

WILSON: He went on to say he realized what he did. And he said he was confident that he, quote, "did not hit anyone innocent."

MARTIN: What do we know about Michael Reinoehl?

WILSON: Well, as you said at the top, he was 48 years old. He had two children. He was estranged from his mother and sister. I spoke to his sister last night. And even though they hadn't spoken in years, she was clearly very upset. More recently, Reinoehl faced a series of criminal charges. Police reports from June show that in rural Oregon, he was pulled over for reckless driving, going more than 100 miles per hour. The trooper who pulled him over found a handgun for which he didn't have a concealed handgun license. The trooper also found unidentified prescription pills and cannabis. Reinoehl was arrested for a DUI at the time. A month later, Reinoehl was cited in downtown Portland by police for interfering with an officer and possession of a loaded firearm in a public place.

MARTIN: So all this comes as the protests continue in Portland, right? What's happening with those now?

WILSON: Yeah. We're coming up with a hundredth night of protests. There are concerns about potential violence this weekend. There's a memorial for the Patriot Prayer supporter who was killed last weekend. And because there's a similar rally of Trump supporters scheduled for Monday on Labor Day, you know, the real worry is that these two killings, you know, someone supporting the far left, another supporting the far right, will inflame an already very tense political situation here and potentially across the country. You know, Portland's mayor, the police chief, Oregon's governor are pleading with people to stop the violence, but no one seems to have a plan on how to end it.

MARTIN: Conrad Wilson from Oregon Public Broadcasting, thank you.

WILSON: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: All right. Seven police officers in Rochester, N.Y., are suspended without pay today.

KING: Back in March, these officers arrested Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man with a history of mental illness. They put a hood over Prude's head, and he later died of suffocation. A medical examiner ruled the death was a homicide, and protests over this in Rochester are still ongoing.

MARTIN: NPR's Liz Baker is in Rochester and has been covering this, joins us now. Hey, Liz.

LIZ BAKER, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: You, I understand, were at the protest last night. What was that like? What were people telling you?

BAKER: Well, I was there earlier in the evening when the crowd of - it was about a couple hundred people marched to the public safety building where police are headquartered. When I left, that protest was still peaceful, but a little while later, the crowd pushed against the police barricade, and there are multiple eyewitness videos showing police responding with tear gas, pepper spray and what sounds like pepper balls or rubber bullets. Before all that started, though, I spoke with several of the Black protesters there, including Shamika Lott (ph). She grew up on the block where Daniel Prude was asphyxiated. She told me the video affected her so much that she had a panic attack at work when she saw it.

SHAMIKA LOTT: I am at rage right now. I am a mother of a Black son who is 21 who I am scared for every day because of the people that are supposed to serve and protect him is killing him because he's Black.

MARTIN: That's hard to hear. And we should just say the video that you're referring to, I mean, this is really what has inflamed protests, this bodycam video from police has been released recently. There is obviously just incredible rage in that city right now. What are the police saying? What are city officials saying?

BAKER: Well, the police haven't said anything, but Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren seemed also angry and apologetic. She had a press conference yesterday. She said there is no question about what led to Daniel Prude's death. Here she is in that press conference.

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LOVELY WARREN: And we must, as a society, as a city, face the truth. Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude's death.

BAKER: The mayor also placed blame on the chief of police, saying that she was initially told Prude died of a drug overdose. And she only found out about officer involvement after the New York state attorney general opened their investigation.

MARTIN: And finally, Daniel Prude's death - I mean, this is behind a rally that happened in New York City last night and that turned violent. A car accelerated through a crowd of protesters. What can you tell us there?

BAKER: Well, according to our colleague at WNYC, Gwynne Hogan - she was reporting on that protest - the crowd of several hundred people had just begun to march out of Times Square Plaza. A car approaches protesters. They don't immediately move out of the way, and then the driver accelerates into the crowd. Everyone was able to jump out of the way. There were no deaths or major injuries. And police say that car belonged to a group of pro-Trump counter-protesters, and an investigation is ongoing.

MARTIN: NPR's Liz Baker in Rochester, N.Y. Thanks, Liz.

BAKER: Thank you.

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MARTIN: All right. This isn't where President Trump wanted to be. He's trailing Joe Biden in key swing states that Trump won in 2016.

KING: That's including Pennsylvania. The president was in Latrobe, Pa., last night. Now, this is a bright red part of a critical battleground state, and it's a place where, even as he's struggling in the polls, he still has a lot of support.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm thrilled to be in Latrobe, the home of the late, great, my friend, Arnold Palmer.

(CHEERING)

KING: That rally was part of the campaign's strategy to focus most of its energy on energizing Trump's base. But how will his supporters respond to a report in The Atlantic magazine in which the president is quoted disparaging the U.S. military?

MARTIN: We're going to ask NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow, who's with us this morning. Scott, let's start with this Atlantic piece and the reaction to it. The executive editor of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote this piece. He said that President Trump has repeatedly said - I mean, just awful things about military service men and service women. Now the White House is pushing back really hard on this piece. What can you tell us?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Yeah. The report said the president just fundamentally doesn't understand the sacrifices that soldiers make and walked through several moments where these sources said that he criticized or even blamed soldiers who died in war and just questioned the point of fighting in one. That includes him allegedly saying a cemetery of American war dead that he did not visit during a trip to France was, quote, "filled with losers." The president has forcefully denied this. He spoke to reporters at the end of yesterday's trip saying, quote, "I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes." Though, remember, the very beginning of his presidential campaign in 2015, he made similar comments about John McCain being shot down.

MARTIN: So there have been, obviously, so many controversies like this over the years. You spent yesterday talking to people who have been with President Trump all along that will never back away. You were at that rally talking to folks. What'd they tell you?

DETROW: Well, I did most of my interviews before this came out, but this fits squarely into the type of reporting that the people who come to these rallies immediately dismiss, saying the media is out to get President Trump and just makes things up. You know, it was a huge overflow (ph) crowd. Everybody was very happy to be there - minimal, if any, COVID precautions. I went to a lot of these rallies in 2016. And to me, the devotion to the president here was much more intense.

MARTIN: More intense than 2016?

DETROW: Yeah, a lot more. And I'll say there were other different things as well, including a very notable presence of QAnon. That's the far-right conspiracy theory that's increasingly embraced by pockets of Trump supporters. I met a lot of people like Mike and Sarah Sever (ph) who I came up and saw them. They had their tent set up. They had coolers of beer, lawn chairs, flags. They were there to tailgate and have a good time. Here's what they told me.

MIKE SEVER: Basically, he kept all his promises.

SARAH SEVER: Yeah. Promises made, promises kept.

M SEVER: Amongst so much resistance from the Democrats, which I firmly believe hate this country.

S SEVER: They do.

MARTIN: Wow. So are there enough people out there in this country for Trump to win?

DETROW: A lot of skepticism about that. The data shows that that classic definition of the Trump base - white, working-class, lower education - is going to be a noticeably smaller chunk of the population than four years ago. And beyond that, his support elsewhere, especially the suburbs, has cratered. It's a very risky strategy to hope that they show up in greater numbers than four years ago.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks. We appreciate you.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: September 3, 2020 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this report said the police officers in Rochester involved in the death of Daniel Prude were suspended without pay. The officers were suspended with pay.