PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man accused of killing a woman at a social justice protest after firing a gun into a crowd of demonstrators at Normandale Park earlier this year was contacted by the FBI in 2021, officials confirmed.
In a written statement to KOIN 6 News on Thursday, the FBI said agents spoke with Benjamin Smith after they received tips about him, but ultimately abandoned any “further investigative actions” based on information they had at the time.
“The FBI previously received information from the public regarding Benjamin Smith,” the bureau said. “The FBI spoke to Benjamin Smith in 2021 and based upon applicable federal guidelines, no further investigative actions were taken based upon the available information.”
In the same statement, the FBI said it only investigates individuals based on illegal activity — or plans to do so — and not political views or other beliefs. It did not elaborate on how this pertained to Smith.
“The FBI takes care to distinguish between constitutionally-protected activities and illegal activities undertaken to further an ideological agenda,” the bureau said in the statement. “The FBI has the authority to conduct an investigation when it has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has engaged in criminal activity or is planning to do so. This authority is based on the illegal activity, not on the individual’s political views, position, or any other beliefs.”
The shooting at Normandale Park
According to court documents, Smith confronted a group of people who were demonstrating at Normandale Park in Northeast Portland on Feb. 19. Social media flyers at the time indicated the demonstrators were protesting for police accountability in the shooting deaths of Amir Locke and Daunte Wright.
After an exchange of yelling between Smith and the crowd, investigators said Smith pulled out a handgun and fired at the protesters, killing 60-year-old Brandy “June” Knightly with a shot to the head. Five other people were shot, including Smith. His shooting ended when he was shot in the hip, investigators said.
The Portland Police Bureau responded to the shooting, and officers said they found people trying to provide medical assistance to several people at the scene. Court documents said witnesses identified one of the wounded people as Smith.
He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, where he stayed for treatment for more than a month before being booked into the Multnomah County Jail.
Smith, 43, is charged with one count of second-degree murder, four counts of first-degree attempted murder, three counts of first-degree assault and one count of second-degree assault. He has pleaded not guilty.
Portland police initially described Smith as a homeowner, when in fact he was a renter living nearby.
KOIN 6 News’ Amanda Arden contributed to this article.