Gunman charged with killing protester in Portland, Oregon
Benjamin Smith “approached the protest and confronted several of its participants, yelling at them and demanding that they leave the area,” Mota said in an affidavit, citing videos shot at the scene. After several protesters told him to leave them alone and go home, Smith said they should “make” him go and aggressively approached one person, who pushed him away.
Moments later, Smith pulled out his gun, Mota said.
Brandy “June” Knightly, 60, was shot in the head at close range and died at the scene, Mota said. Smith only stopped shooting when someone returned fire, hitting him in the hip, Mota said.
Smith is in critical condition in a hospital under police surveillance. Smith was charged Tuesday by District Attorney Mike Schmidt with second degree murder with a firearm, four counts of attempted first degree murder with a firearm and assault.
It was not immediately clear if Smith had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Knightly was remembered Tuesday as a woman who stood up for others.
“As a community, this is deeply hurtful and distressing,” Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said.
One of the injured was shot in the neck and is paralyzed from the neck down, Mota said. Two people were shot several times, including one in the abdomen, and the fourth injured was shot in the arm.
Smith’s roommate Kristine Christenson told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Smith was often critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID-19 mask requirement, neighborhood crime, and homeless people living near the park near their apartment.
Knightly’s friend, Kathleen Saadat, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Knightly is dedicated to acting on her values of justice and fairness.
“She was a warm, generous, kind person who spent time trying to think of things she could do to make the world a better place and to make herself a better place in the world,” Saadat said.
Knightly’s wife, Katherine Knapp, said Knightly first became involved in racial justice protests after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020.
Social media fliers show that at the same time as the shooting, a march was planned for Amir Locke, a black man who was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis.
Portland has seen months of nightly protests in 2020 that often escalated into violence following the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis. Portland has become the center of the police defunding movement, but sustained protests in the city have largely died down.
Last year was marked by record gun violence in Portland. Police and city officials say the rise in violence, which has disproportionately affected Portland’s black community, has been fueled by gang-related disputes, drug deals gone awry and disputes among the homeless. The situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic, economic hardship and mental health crises.
Portland recorded 90 homicides in 2021, breaking the city’s previous record of 66, set more than three decades ago.
Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon.