Crime and Safety, Lacey

Who shot first? Did Reinoehl shoot at all?

County releases new information on Reinoehl shooting

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Officers working under the jurisdiction of a federal task force fired 37 rounds at Michael Reinoehl the evening of Sept. 3, according to a Thurston County Sheriff’s Office press release released yesterday.

The Sheriff’s Office sent out its press release at 4:03 p.m. yesterday, soon after The New York Times published an investigative story on the shooting. In the New York Times story, witnesses claimed officers opened fire on Reinoehl instantly after arriving on-scene.  

According to the press release, Reinoehl was spotted leaving an apartment building in unincorporated Tanglewilde carrying two bags to his vehicle. Responding officers, who said they were intent on arresting Reinoehl, moved in immediately. As Reinoehl started his vehicle, responding officers arrived and parked in front of Reinoehl. One officer started giving verbal commands. 

Two officers reported seeing Reinoehl reach toward the center console of his vehicle. One officer reported “what he believed to be a handgun presented by Mr. Reinoehl toward the officers,” according to the press release.

Two officers opened fire and Reinoehl left the vehicle after the shooting started. He ran from the driver’s door toward the back of his vehicle. The press release indicates that, after he left the car, the officers could see there was a handgun in Reinoehl’s pocket.

He ran to the roadway, in the direction of two other officers, who opened fire. The press release indicates they saw Reinoehl “had his hand near his waistband and pocket where they observed a firearm.”

Reinoehl had his hand on the gun as he fell to the ground, according to the press release. He was handcuffed, and officers began administering CPR. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Coroner Gary Warnock said he died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso. 

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, who is investigating the shooting, determined 37 rounds were fired by four different officers. A fired shell casing was found in Reinoehl’s vehicle matching the caliber of his .380 handgun. It’s not clear if the round was fired from Reinoehl’s gun. The gun and bullet casing were sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab for analysis. Results are expected to take a few months. No officers carried weapons of that caliber the night Reinoehl was killed. 

An AR-style .22 caliber rifle was found in the front seat of Reinoehl’s vehicle.

In its story, which was published on Tuesday and updated yesterday, The New York Times reported that multiple witnesses said officers began firing almost immediately after bursting onto the scene. Some witnesses said they didn’t hear the officers announce themselves or give commands before they started shooting. That information contradicts the press release from the Sheriff's Office, which says at least one officer gave verbal commands to Reinoehl to surrender. The information in the press release came from interviews with the involved officers. No video footage of the shooting is known to exist, although some videos of the immediate aftermath were captured by civilians and have circulated on social media. Lt. Ray Brady, with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, previously told The JOLT News that no body cam or dash cam footage of the shooting exists.

Reinoehl was suspected of shooting and killing Aaron Danielson in Portland. Reinoehl, in an interview with Vice Media before he left Portland, said he shot Danielson in self-defense. Reinoehl took to social media to voice his support of the Black Lives Matter movement — a cause that made him a regular fixture at ongoing protests against police violence and racial inequality — and identified himself as antifa, the name for a loosely organized movement committed to denouncing fascism through protest.

His death has sparked national attention, as multiple national news outlets covered both Danielson’s death, and later focused their attention on Reinoehl’s death and the subsequent investigation. Numerous witnesses have spoken to reporters about what they saw or heard the evening of Sept. 3 — sometimes with differing and contradictory accounts. Yesterday’s story in The New York Times has the most witness accounts of the shooting yet. Most of those witnesses said that the police did little to identify themselves and resorted to gunfire very quickly.

Editor's note: The headline of this story has been changed to reflect the fact that it is not clear that Reinoehl used his gun at all during this incident.

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