On Saturday, five people were injured and one killed in a mass shooting at a Portland, Oregon protest over the police killing of a Black man. Since then, far-right figures have attempted to miscast the shooting, constantly hyping it as an antifa-involved killing and denying any involvement with the far-right.
“The narrative by antifa that it was a far-right attack is falling apart,” wrote right-wing provocateur Andy Ngo in the aftermath of the shooting.
On Monday, local media reported that the alleged shooter was a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement and leftist protests, and said that he wanted to “shoot commies.” The Oregonian/Oregon Live reports that Benjamin Jeffrey Smith, a 43-year-old machinist, is being investigated for the shooting. His identity was first alleged by antifascist researchers.
On Tuesday morning, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) confirmed in a release that Smith is the suspect in the shooting.
Witnesses say Smith confronted people accompanying the racial justice protest on Saturday. The group was reportedly attempting to deescalate the situation when Smith allegedly pulled a handgun and fired on them.
Dajah Beck told the New York Times that a man approached, yelling that they were “violent terrorists,” and threatened to shoot them. Then he opened fire. The Times reports that Beck was shot twice.
One woman was killed. Two of the five wounded are in critical condition, according to the Oregonian. Smith was also shot when an unidentified individual reportedly returned fire.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, far-right figures rushed to fill the information void.
“The incident happened because of the armed militant group being allowed to have routine unlawful gatherings where they shut down traffic and point guns at people to intimidate them,” Ngo tweeted on Sunday.
Ngo, several times, also said the narrative it was a far-right shooting was incorrect.
“The narrative by antifa that it was a far-right attack is falling apart & no evidence has appeared to support it,” he wrote.
Podcaster Tim Pool claimed that he was more likely to believe that Smith was shot in the back.
“This looks like self defense,” he also tweeted about the mass shooting.
Similar rumors are being spread across the far-right information ecosystem. On Monday, Proud Boys-adjacent Murder the Media wrote on Telegram, “Antifa involved in a mass shooting with neighborhood member in Portland, killing 1 and injuring 5.”
Many have also taken issue with PPB’s characterization of events and how long it took them to reveal Smith’s identity. Police initially said that the shooting “appeared to be a confrontation between armed protesters and an armed homeowner.”
PPB told the Daily Dot via email that it didn’t release Smith’s name until Tuesday because it was still determining who was a suspect and who were the victims.
“Cases can be fluid, and as additional facts are learned, who is a victim and who is a suspect can also change,” PPB wrote. “Releasing names prematurely, before all the facts are known, could have catastrophic effects on an investigation and on any person who might eventually be considered a victim (and their family).”
In a press release Tuesday morning, PPB claimed that its investigation has been hindered by people at the scene removing critical evidence. It asked people to provide them with these items as well as any video they may have of the shooting.
People who know the suspected shooter and witnessed the incident describe things quite differently from accounts being circulated by the far-right. Smith was not a “homeowner,” as PPB initially claimed. Witnesses also say he opened fire first. Beck told the Times that those shot were traffic safety volunteers who weren’t part of the protest.
Smith’s roommate, brother, and neighbors told local media that he loathed racial justice protesters, the poor, and liberals.
According to the local NPR affiliate OPB, Smith’s roommate Kristine Christenson said Smith had become increasingly radicalized in recent years. Christenson said he’s been wanting to shoot leftists for some time.
“He talked about wanting to go shoot commies and antifa all the friggin‘ time,” Christenson reportedly said.
“He was just a sad angry dude. … He talked about wanting to do this for a while. He was angry at the mask mandates, he was angry at the damned liberals.”
She also said that he used “racial slurs” and derogatory language towards women.
Smith’s brother and neighbors similarly confirmed that he was fixated on protests and the homeless, the Oregonian reports.
Numerous Twitter users have said that he went by Polybun on social media and in chats. Several have said that he was a member of the furry community for a time.
Smith’s roommate confirmed to the Oregonian that he went by Polybun online.
A 2021 thread about a chat for furries said that Polybun made antisemitic statements and said he wished the Proud Boys would “shoot people up” and that they’d “deserve” it.
Screenshots of comments by Polybun on Reddit and Telegram have also circulated since Smith was identified as the suspected shooter.
The posts show Polybun praising a man who killed his neighbors over a dispute involving snow, and making various antisocial statements.
In 2018, Polybun wrote, “I’m not that into crowds, I’m not the artistic sort, and I’m fairly antisocial. I’m a machinist by trade.”