Suspect Facing Charges in Fatal Portland Shooting Railed Against Antifa, Says Roommate


PORTLAND — A man whom a roommate said frequently railed against antifa activists faces murder and attempted murder charges for allegedly opening fire on people who gathered Saturday evening for a racial justice march.

One woman was killed and five others were wounded, including the suspect, Benjamin Smith, 43, who is hospitalized in serious condition.

Smith faces nine charges including one count of murder in the second degree and four counts of attempted murder in the first degree, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant filed by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office in the county's Circuit Court.

A statement released by the district attorney's office said a judge signed a warrant for Smith's arrest Tuesday.

The affidavit includes a description of events Saturday evening based in part on video evidence. It states that Smith went down after he was shot in the hip area by another person.

Smith is a machinist who lives in an apartment building in northeast Portland. His roommate, Kristine Christenson, said he was becoming increasingly angry and isolated. He frequently complained about the liberal politics in Oregon, gun control laws and COVID-19 restrictions. He also talked about antifa, sometimes threatening to shoot protesters, according to Christenson.

"During the last two years, it's gotten really bad," Christenson said. "He talks about how much he hates protesters. He makes me very uncomfortable. He has made me very uncomfortable for a while."

The shooting was part of a broader wave of gun violence in Portland that included a record number homicides in 2022.

The Saturday bloodshed has caused anguish and outrage among veterans of the Portland protest movement, some of whom on Sunday took over a police briefing of reporters to denounce law enforcement officers and journalists. Police on Tuesday identified the woman who died at the scene as Brandy "June" Knightly, 60.

Knightly was shot at close range and died at the scene. Another woman was paralyzed from the neck down, and is hospitalized in critical condition, according to the district attorney.

Knightly frequently participated in marches against racial injustice. She has assisted in keeping protesters safe from traffic, and that was the job she was doing when she was killed, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The Saturday event in northeast Portland was organized in support of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man killed Feb. 2 by Minneapolis police, and Patrick Kimmons, a Black man slain in 2018 by Portland police.

The affidavit alleges that Smith confronted a group of protesters at Normandale Park, "yelling at them and demanding that they leave"

After some people told him to return to his home, Smith said, "Make me." He then allegedly aggressively approached a protester and got pushed back. Smith continued to yell at participants and a few moments later drew a handgun and fired at multiple people, the affidavit alleges.

Four residents who live near the park said that they heard a brief, loud argument, and then shots were fired as activists gathered.

"I heard this man's voice say, 'You don't bring this [expletive] into our neighborhood,' then gunfire," said Mike MacRae, who lives across the street from the park.

A fifth area resident who lives in the same apartment complex as the suspect said she saw the suspect arguing with some protesters before the gunfire. Citing concerns for her safety, she asked not to be identified.

Smith's brother, Aurthur Killion, said his brother was unhappy with overall attitudes in Oregon and wanted to move out of the state. "The only thing that was keeping him there was his job," Killion said.

Another brother, John Killion, told The Oregonian that Smith had multiple issues with protesters who had threatened him and others in the past.

"He said he was ready to defend himself," Killion said. "He had no love for them. But he's not some right-wing nut-job."

The Portland Police Bureau earlier this week described the investigation into the Saturday shooting as complex and said detectives are working closely with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office to share facts and evidence. On Tuesday, a bureau statement said "people at the scene removed critical evidence."

Christenson said he was taking a nap when the incident occurred, and later was visited by Portland police.

Christenson said the suspect had guns at the apartment. Neighbors also said they saw Smith armed on occasion.

Hayden Finley, an apartment complex resident, recalled how Smith once wielded a gun as he chased away a homeless person searching a trash can at the apartment complex.

"He would come out with a gun and be like, 'Hey, you need to get out of here,'" Finley said. "... He always had a gun with him."