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Deadly Protest Confrontation

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Neighbor suspect in shooting at Normandale Park

Police respond Saturday to a shooting at Normandale Park in the Rose City neighborhood of northeast Portland where one person was killed and five others were wounded during a protest of police shooting deaths. (AP photo)


A 43-year-old neighbor man is suspected of fatally shooting a woman protester on Saturday night at Normandale Park in the Rose City neighborhood following a confrontation between him and other anti-police protesters, authorities said Tuesday.


In a statement, the Portland Police Bureau identified the suspect as Benjamin Smith.


Detectives were working with prosecutors to review potential charges, police said. It wasn’t immediately clear if Smith had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.


According to reporting on OPB, the shooter approached a group of women protestors calling them “violent terrorists” and spewing other “misogynist vulgarity.”


Smith’s roommate, Kristine Christenson, told The Oregonian that Smith often criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID-19 mask requirement, crime in the neighborhood and homeless people living near the park by their apartment.


Authorities also identified the victim Tuesday as Brandy “June” Knightly, 60, and said she died of a gunshot wound.


Friends and relatives said Knightly was well-known for helping people in the city’s active protest movement.


Her friend Kathleen Saadat told the newspaper that Knightly was dedicated to acting on her values of justice and fairness.


“She was a warm, giving and kind person who spent time trying to think of things she could do to make the world better and to make herself better in the world,” Saadat said.


Knightly was known as T-Rex by other protesters, often driving people to and from different points during demonstrations in Portland and surrounding towns and paid particular attention to helping people with disabilities or others who were vulnerable, friends said.


Knightly’s wife, Katherine Knapp, said Knightly first got involved in racial justice protests when demonstrators marched near their home after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020.


Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, the first Black woman to serve on the City Council, issued a statement saying it appeared the alleged shooter was a man with white supremacist sympathies.


“There is a history and pattern of threats of violence against activists, including myself. As a community this is deeply wounding and distressing,” Hardesty said.


The commissioner said she was taking a pause from her campaign for re-election to review her own safety protocols.


“We know this has a chilling effect on civic engagement, and we will keep fighting for a world where we all experience safety on our streets and in our daily lives," she said


Police earlier described an “extremely chaotic scene” at the northeast Portland park and described a confrontation between an armed area resident and protesters, some of whom were also armed.


Authorities said most people left the scene without talking to officers.


Social media flyers 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.


-Associated Press contributed to this story.

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