Portland gunman charged with killing protester in mass shooting

Shootings occurred as Portland activists assembled in park before what social-media posts described as a protest over police shooting victims

Benjamin Smith attended the demonstration and confronted protesters on February 19, demanding that they leave the area. Getty Images / AFP

Police in Portland, Oregon, have charged a 43-year-old man after a deadly shooting during a protest at the weekend left one person dead and five others injured.

Benjamin Smith attended a demonstration and confronted protesters on February 19, demanding that they leave the area and then drew his gun, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Mariel Mota said.

Brandy “June” Knightly was shot in the head at close range and died at the scene, Mr Mota said. Mr Smith stopped shooting only when someone fired back, striking him in the hip area, Mr Mota said.

The shooting took place as people gathered in north-east Portland on Saturday to protest the death of Amir Locke, the 22-year-old man whom police fatally shot this month during a no-knock apartment raid in Minneapolis.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement on Sunday that a preliminary investigation indicated the incident “started with a confrontation between an armed homeowner and armed protesters” but that detectives were still struggling to gather evidence.

Neighbours watch as Portland police investigate a shooting in Portland, Oregon. Getty Images / AFP

In an online briefing on Sunday afternoon, department representative Nathan Sheppard said detectives believe numerous people either saw the shooting or recorded it on their phones but have not co-operated with police.

The police said they found Knightly dead when they arrived at the scene in the Rose City Park neighbourhood on Saturday night and that those injured, including Mr Smith, were taken to hospital.

Protesters at Normandale Park were preparing to march when Mr Smith, who lives close by, confronted them and then opened fire, The Oregonian reported on Sunday.

Portland was rocked by months of antiracism protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes in May 2020.

The city has also been a magnet for clashes between political extremists, with violent skirmishes breaking out between people associated with the far-right Proud Boys and members of Antifa, the loosely organised anti-fascist movement.

Like many other big US cities, Portland has experienced a surge in murders over the past two years, a phenomenon experts have attributed partly to the social disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: February 23, 2022, 5:27 PM