Content warning: This article discusses a mass shooting resulting in a death and injuries. Take care of yourself, especially if this material is triggering for you. Graphic videos and photos are not included in this article, but many of the links included may also link to such materials.
Details about the mass shooting at Normandale Park on Saturday evening continue to emerge. Benjamin Smith has been identified as the shooter who killed June Knightly and wounded four others.
Smith seemingly targeted people he thought would be unable to defend themselves — a small group of unarmed women. Knight was older and carried a cane. Furthermore, the main body of protesters more than a block away. The group of traffic safety volunteers were preparing to manage traffic when the JFPK march reached their location, but were in the early stages of set up.
Another protester heard the attack and calls for help. He was able to reach the group and stop Smith’s attack by returning fire.
Smith stopped shooting only when he was shot in the hip. Smith remains hospitalized.
Of the four survivors of the attack, two were treated and released from medical care. Two remain in the hospital, one of whom is now paralyzed from the neck down. In addition to injuries suffered at Smith’s hands, Andy Ngo has doxed the victims. They’re now receiving death threats on social media. At least one of the victims was previously doxed by Ngo during the George Floyd Uprising.
Smith is a long-time follower of Ngo’s. It is unclear if Smith learned about Saturday’s protest from Ngo. However, Ngo posted about the event repeatedly. Ngo has also targeted past JFPK events in his social media posts and continues to spread misinformation about what happened at Normandale Park.
Key context: community action
Community action is the key to understanding what happened the evening of February 19 — and to understanding why Smith didn’t manage to do more harm.
- Protesters have been targeted numerous times by assailants with vehicles (both in Portland and elsewhere). Corkers have developed strategies to protect protests, making those attacks less effective.
- A volunteer security guard stopped Smith’s attack well in advance of law enforcement officers arriving on the scene, shooting Smith in the hip only after Smith had started shooting. While PPB arrested that volunteer, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office ‘no complaint’ed the charge. That volunteer is licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
- Community medics took immediate action to treat not only Smith’s victims, but Smith himself.
- Community members identified Smith, as well as found his ties to right-wing provocateur Andy Ngo, when Portland police officers were still actively sharing false information with the media.
In comparison, PPB and other governmental organizations did little to prevent the mass shooting and continue to do little to address its consequences. Similarly, social media platforms continue to enable abuse by Ngo, Smith, and others like them.
- PPB shared multiple details that were easily proven false, including claims that Smith is a home owner living across the street from Normandale Park (Smith rents an apartment near the park, but not across the street from it). At last count, more than 40 articles had picked up PPB’s use of the term “homeowner”, as well as suggesting the shooting was due to some action by protesters.
- The Portland Police Bureau held a press conference on Tuesday covering three deadly incidents: the mass shooting at Normandale Park, PPB’s own killing of Joel Arevalo on Saturday, and a drive-by shooting. The combined press conference seemed like an effort to conflate all three deaths into a general narrative about random gun violence, rather than acknowledging the dramatically different circumstances of each incident.
- Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler, who also acts as Portland’s mayor, responded to questions about his previous statements that protesters should be harmed. He said that he did not regret those previous statements and claimed that someone could be hurt in non-violent ways.
- Wheeler also admonished the journalist who broke the news of Smith’s identity for asking about misinformation. Wheeler said that PPB had an obligation to move slowly to avoid sharing incorrect information (despite PPB’s multiple misleading statements on regarding this shooting, as well as others).
- Smith’s family members made multiple attempts to contact PPB, as well as area hospitals and received no response.
- PPB assigned Detective Scott Broughton to the case. Many Portland activists are familiar with Broughton through his assignment to investigate the murder of Sean Kealiher, better known as Armeanio Lewis, in 2019. Broughton has made little progress in that investigation and has berated members of Kealiher’s family for requesting updates.
- The Multnomah County District Attorney, Mike Schmidt brought charges against Smith late on Tuesday, as well as arranging for a judge to issue an arrest warrant.
- Twitter continues to allow Ngo’s posts, even as he continues to push violence, including against community members holding a vigil in Normandale Park. Ngo has also been linked to a mass shooting in Colorado last December.
- Multiple people have reported Smith to both local and national law enforcement agencies for death threats and other concerning behavior, dating back to at least 2006.
Community care efforts continue
Multiple community efforts to cover costs of care and other needs for those injured in the attack are under way. While I previously recommended a GoFundMe campaign, there are some concerns about relying on that campaign (including a coordinated effort to report the campaign by supporters of Smith and Ngo). At this time, I’d recommend supporting the efforts below first, and then supporting the GoFundMe if you have additional resources you want to contribute.
- Blair’s Beautiful Bounty: Registered 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Portland is accepting donations on behalf of those affected through CashApp at $BlairsBBounty. (Two of the survivors have endorsed this effort.)
- Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider: Cider delivery in Portland with all sales going directly to those affected through Sunday, February 27 (Two anonymous donors are matching the company’s donations, so a purchase of $1 equals $3 going to those affected)
- NightOwl Custom Apparel: T-shirt, sticker, and poster sale with proceeds going directly to those affected (NightOwl’s transparency efforts from prior fundraisers are available for review)
Community members are also maintaining a vigil at Normandale Park. If you’re in Portland, consider spending some time at the vigil site.
Letha Winston, who organizes JFPK protests to call for justice for her son, Patrick Kimmons, is organizing a march for this coming Saturday in honor of Kimmons (killed by Portland police officers in 2018), Amir Locke (killed by Minneapolis police at the beginning of this month) and Daunte Wright (killed by Minneapolis police in 2020).