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Suspect in Normandale Park shooting charged with murder, 4 counts of attempted murder

Benjamin Smith remains hospitalized, in serious condition, after witnesses said someone in the crowd of demonstrators fired back to try and stop the shooting.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Hours after Portland police identified Benjamin Smith, 43, as the shooter accused of killing a woman and injuring four others at a racial justice rally at Northeast Portland's Normandale Park on Saturday, the Multnomah County District Attorney filed criminal charges against him.

According to court documents, Smith is facing nine counts:

  • Murder in the second degree with a firearm
  • Four counts of attempted murder in the first degree with a firearm
  • Two counts of assault in the first degree with a firearm
  • Two counts of assault in the second degree with a firearm

An affidavit paints a clearer picture of what investigators believe happened leading up to the shooting.

On Feb. 19, demonstrators came to Normandale Park for a planned rally and march in honor of Amir Locke, a Black man who was shot and killed Feb. 2 by Minneapolis police serving a no-knock warrant in which he wasn't named.

According to court documents filed in Multnomah County Court on Tuesday, Smith confronted demonstrators, yelling at them and demanding that they leave the area. Demonstrators responded by telling Smith to leave, at which point he told demonstrators to "make" him and approached someone "aggressively." The demonstrator pushed him back while Smith continued to yell, the affidavit states. Smith drew a handgun, according to the affidavit, and fired into the crowd.

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers were called to Northeast 55th Avenue on a call of multiple shots fired. When officers arrived, there were people already trying to render aid to those who had been shot. Several people in the crowd pointed the officers in the direction of Smith, who had been shot in return fire in the "hip area."

The affidavit also reveals information about the victims who were shot. It states that the woman killed, Brandy Knightly, who friends said went by June, was shot at close range in the head. A memorial for her has been erected in Normandale Park since her death. Knightly was said to be a maternal figure to all who frequented racial justice rallies in Portland.

"Take some time to mourn the loss of June," said Knightly's friend Nacie Runyan. "Keep her in your heart and in your light and keep fighting the good fight."

Another victim was hit by a bullet in the neck and is paralyzed from the neck down. The third victim was struck by bullets in multiple places and is still hospitalized as of Tuesday. The fourth victim was hit in the upper arm and was treated at a hospital and released.

Smith remains in the hospital in critical condition. He needed surgery for the bullet that put an end to his shooting.

A search of Smith's history reveals clues of a violent past. In 2010, he was charged with assault and harassment.

Court documents from that prior case show Smith lives at an apartment complex half a block from the park and more than a block from where demonstrators were gathering. Neighbors confirmed to KGW he still lives there.

On Tuesday, multiple neighbors said they weren't surprised Smith became violent.

"He was always a little bit aggressive and protective of his property," said Chelsea Blando, who lives next door. "There were multiple times over the years that he's brandished guns out at people going through our trash in the courtyard."

Blando said Smith was largely antisocial but neighbors knew he collected guns.

"That was one thing," Blando said. "If you ever got him talking, he would end up talking about whatever gun he's got ... you know, a new one coming or whatever. He just always had them out."

Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said Smith was angry about the city's housing crisis and blamed homeless people. He said, a few days before the shooting, Smith said he hoped a homeless person would break into his apartment "so he could shoot them."

Smith's longtime roommate told The Oregonian/OregonLive Smith had become fixated on the racial justice protests of 2020 and was angry about growing anti-police rhetoric.

The roommate was quoted saying Smith was "getting more and more radicalized."

According to the district attorney, Smith has been accompanied by police since he was admitted to the hospital on Saturday. OPB reported law enforcement initially charged the second shooter who shot Smith but the DA ultimately decided not to charge them.




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