Man accused of shooting 5 at protest pleads not guilty

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man accused of killing a woman and shooting four other people during a February racial justice protest in Oregon was arraigned in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Benjamin Smith, 43, pleaded not guilty Thursday to one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a firearm, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Smith had confronted a group of people directing traffic away from a racial justice demonstration at a northeast Portland park and yelled at them to leave, according to witnesses and an affidavit written by Deputy District Attorney Mariel Mota.

According to the affidavit, people can be heard in a video of the altercation telling Smith to leave them alone.

“(Smith) responds by demanding they ‘make’ him leave and he approaches a participant aggressively, who pushes him back,” Mota wrote in the affidavit. “(Smith) continues to yell at participants and a few moments later, (he) draws a handgun and fires at multiple people, striking five.”

June Brandy Knightly, 60, died during the encounter, and four others were injured. Court records don’t identify the other victims, but Mota’s Feb. 22 affidavit said one was shot in the neck and paralyzed. Another was shot multiple times and hospitalized, while two others were treated and released.

Smith was shot in the hip by someone in the crowd that night after he began shooting at the protesters, based on witness accounts and court records. His recovery delayed his arraignment.

Smith’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 5.

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