The family of murdered Trump supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Portland, its mayor, and the county district attorney on Friday. The lawsuit states that Danielson’s death was “preventable” and blames the city and officials for a “hands-off approach” to its policing strategy.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Friday, says the City of Portland stood a “hands-off approach” to political demonstrations and counter-protests in the city and this fostered a “culture of vigilante policing,” OregonLive.com reported.
During a pro-Trump rally that engaged a counter-protest from local Antifa activists, Michael Forest Reinoehl shot and killed Danielson. Reinoehl was seen in security videos lurking in an alcove before emerging to fire the fatal shot, Breitbart News reported.
Surveillance footage from the parking garage adjacent to the scene of the crime last weekend showed Reinhoel “emerging from an alcove of a parking garage before firing two gunshots, one that hit the man’s bear spray can and the other that proved fatal,” according to the Oregonian, which reviewed an affidavit filed by police that was unsealed after [Reinoehl’s] death.
Attorney for Danielson’s estate, Christopher L. Cauble, said “We are seeking justice for the preventable death of a young man, gunned down in a city with a dangerous and deadly hands-off approach to public safety,” in a written statement published by OregonLive. “Time and time again, City leadership and law enforcement have failed to find an effective response to clashing groups of protesters.”
The plaintiff seeks a total of $13 million in damages. Those damages include $1.5 million in economic damage, $1.5 million in non-economic damages, and up to $10 million in punitive damages.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the City of Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt is accused in the lawsuit for his role in adopting a new policy to not pursue what he considered “public order crimes such as criminal mischief, interfering with an officer or a stand-alone riot charge, and instead would focus on deliberate property damage and threats of force or actual force against others.”
Shortly before the filing of the lawsuit, Mayor Wheeler admitted the “hands-off strategies” for dealing with rioters was “not the right strategy,” Fox News reported.
“It is clear, based on the public outcry, on the media outcry, on the national front, that that strategy was not the right strategy,” the mayor said during a city council meeting last week, according to the Associated Press. “I think we can all acknowledge that. I take full responsibility for it.”
The lawsuit alleges that the police department’s Rapid Response Team, responsible for crowd control during protests and riots, was less than two blocks away from the shooting. The team was given orders to not get involved between dueling demonstrators.
“Given the enormity of the press coverage over the past several years regarding clashes between left- and right-leaning protest groups in the downtown core of Portland, Defendants knew or should have known that violent clashes would occur,” Cauble wrote in the court pleadings.
The lawsuit alleges that the city and mayor “fostered an environment in which demonstrators on both sides could reasonably anticipate a skeletal and passive police presence on the weekend of August 29, 2020.”
Knowing the probability for violence as the two groups clashed the city and police failed “to divert the caravan of right-leaning demonstrators” away from the downtown area and then again failed to separate the two sides with the confrontations began, OregonLive stated.