Oregon man pleads guilty to killing racial justice protester

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man who shot five people, killing one, during a small racial justice protest in Portland, Oregon, last year pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges on Wednesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Benjamin Smith, 44, faces the potential of life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18.

Smith opened fire near Normandale Park on Feb. 19, 2022, killing June Knightly, a 60-year-old racial justice activist. Four people were seriously injured. One was paralyzed from the neck down, according to court documents.

Smith pleaded guilty to nine charges: second-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and four assault charges.

Smith had come out of his apartment and started yelling at a small group of protesters. According to witnesses, attempts to de-escalate failed, and Smith drew a handgun and began firing.

During the shooting, an armed bystander returned fire, critically injuring Smith.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Marshall told spectators that the court proceeding was an attempt to make sense of a situation “that shouldn’t be part of the human experience,” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

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