Donald Trump added controversy to the September law enforcement killing of antifa activist and murder suspect Michael Reinoehl, by alleging the U.S. Marshals “didn’t want to arrest him” and proudly declaring, “We got him.”
Trump’s remarks came during a rally Thursday in Greenville, North Carolina. “We sent in the U.S. Marshals. Took 15 minutes, it was over, 15 minutes it was over,” Trump said of Reinoehl’s death to cheers from the crowd. “We got him. They knew who he was. They didn’t want to arrest him, and 15 minutes, that ended.”
Trump: We sent in the US Marshals, took 15 minutes and it was over… They knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him and 15 minutes that ended pic.twitter.com/fJA5BsJVeF
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 15, 2020
Trump had previously touted Reinoehl’s killing as an act of vengeance by the Justice Department, calling the man’s death “retribution.” Trump’s latest comments are an even more blatant celebration of what he himself seems to be characterizing as an extrajudicial killing by law-enforcement and comes uncomfortably close to casting the U.S. Marshal’s service as his death squad. The U.S. Marshal Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Trump’s claim about their intent. (A previous statement by the service described Marshals as “attempting to arrest” Reinoehl at the time of his death.)
Reinoehl’s killing has come under new scrutiny in recent days after a pair of investigations questioned whether law enforcement officers identified themselves or did actually attempt to arrest Reinoehl before firing dozens of shots at him, as well as whether Reinoehl in fact “produced a firearm” as claimed in September by Attorney General Bill Barr, who went out of his way to “applaud” federal agents for having “this violent agitator removed.” Multiple witnesses told reporters the officers did not identify themselves and started firing at Reinoehl as soon as they rolled up in two SUVs outside an apartment building in Lacy, Washington, where Reinoehl was hiding out. After he was killed, investigators reportedly found a handgun still in Reinoehl’s pocket, and the officers on the scene have now given differing accounts as to whether he raised the gun, with two of them saying that he did not, according to The New York Times.
Before he was gunned down, Reinoehl was wanted on second-degree murder charges for allegedly shooting Aaron “Jay” Danielson on the streets of downtown Portland on August 29th. The confrontation between the men occurred after a roving Trump “cruise” rally veered off the freeway and onto city streets. Danielson was affiliated with the far-right group Patriot Prayer and can be seen in a video of the encounter spraying a mace-like substance at Reinoehl.
Reinoehl had cast himself as a security presence at Black Lives Matter protests in Portland this summer, and described himself on social media as being “100% ANTIFA all the way!” In an interview with Vice shortly before he was killed, Reinoehl characterized his confrontation with Danielson as a defensive action. “I had no choice. I mean, I, I had a choice. I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of color,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to do that.”