Benjamin Jeffrey Smith, a self-described anti-social machinist with a trail of disturbing social media posts, was named as the Portland, Oregon, man who is accused in the mass shooting of five people on February 19 that left a Black Lives Matter protester dead.
Smith was named by authorities as the suspect on February 22; he was initially named by OregonLive, which reported that witnesses identified him as the shooter. OPB editor Ryan Haas reported that Smith had not been charged as he remained hospitalized but a warrant for his arrest included charges of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, assault and unlawful use of a weapon.
The District Attorney announced later the same day that Smith was being charged with nine offenses, including murder in the second degree.
The DA’s statement says that Smith confronted the group of protesters, yelling at them to leave the park. They told him to leave them alone, and he then fired into the crowd, according to the statement.
He was described on social media as a local “furry” who goes by the name Polybun. (“Furry,” according to Merriam-Webster, “refers to people who have a keen interest in, or even dress up as, anthropomorphic animal characters, like those often seen in comics, games, and cartoons.”) OregonLIve confirmed that the Polybun name is associated with Smith.
He is also known as Ben Smith and was also shot and critically wounded in the incident, the outlet reported. Police have released few details of what they described as a chaotic scene, but in their February 22 update indicated “Smith remains hospitalized in serious condition.”
Authorities did not initially name the deceased victim but on February 22 also identified her as 60-year-old Brandy Knightly. OregonLive identified the Black Lives Matter protester who was shot and killed as June Knightly. Her nickname was T-Rex, according to the outlet.
Smith’s roommate told OPB, “He talked about wanting to go shoot commies and antifa all the friggin time. 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.” He worked at Peninsula Iron Works, according to OregonLive.
On Reddit, Ben Smith, writing as 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, build electronic gadgets and hot rods for fun.” Screenshots emerged of posts under his handle on Telegram and other accounts.
Portland police wrote in a news release, “A preliminary investigation into the February 19, 2022 shooting near the intersection of Northeast 55th Avenue and Northeast Hassalo Street indicates this incident started with a confrontation between an armed homeowner and armed protesters.” They said that six people, including Smith, were shot; of them, only Knightly died. According to OregonLive, three of those shot are in critical condition.
According to OregonLive, the armed man who lived “nearby shot into the crowd and one of the demonstrators shot the man who opened fire.” The local KPTV reported that the protest at Portland’s Normandale Park was organized “in solidarity with Amir Locke,” a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed as police executed a no-knock warrant on February 2 in Minneapolis.
Here’s what you need to know about Benjamin “Polybun” Smith:
1. Smith Is a Machinist Who Has Lived in the Area for Years & Was Growing Increasingly Angry About Protests, Reports Say
According to OregonLive, Benjamin Smith is “a 43-year-old machinist who has lived for 14 years across the street from Normandale Park.”
The outlet reported that Smith’s brother said Smith, as OregonLive put it, “had grown increasingly angry at demonstrations set in the Northeast Portland neighborhood.”
Smith was also upset about city-wide protests, homeless people in the area and COVID-19 health “mandates,” and he was known to “collect guns,” the outlet reported.
According to OregonLive, Knightly was described by friends as a “fixture of Portland’s protest movement.”
The outlet reported that Knightly, who was from northeast Portland, was part of a group of women “who were volunteering as part of a motorcade group working on traffic and logistics” ahead of the protest.
Kathleen Saadat described Knightly to OregonLive, saying, “She was a warm, giving and kind person who spent time trying to think of things she could do to make the world better and to make herself better in the world.”
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On Instagram, Knightly indicated that she used the pronoun she and said she identified as “Queer Femme.” Her top story is a graphic of Black Lives Matter.
2. Disturbing Social Media Posts Have Emerged Under the Name ‘Polybun’
Social media posts published on Telegram and other sites under the name Polybun have emerged, revealing comments about killing “people that just willingly disrespect the property of another” and anti-Semitic comments about the victims in the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting.
Smith also had a Reddit thread under the name “Polybun.” A review of it by Heavy found these comments:
“Censorship is never ok, no matter what the reason. F*** you.”
On the story of a man who shot his neighbors over a snowblower dispute: “f***, whatever. People that just willingly disrespect the property of another, and then s*** talk them after they have done so. F*** ’em, got what they f****** deserved. The world is better off without their entitled f****** a****.”
He also wrote of the shot couple, “hahahaha, two dips**** just learned why you don’t talk s***. Not a shame that their lesson was short lived either. good riddence to bad rubbish. As the hero of this story says, should have kept their f*****’ mouth shut.”
He wrote about dogecoin in very esoteric posts, in which he wrote things like, “I wasn’t able to get dogecoin core up and going in a command line only form. Couldn’t work it out, and got kiiiiiind of drunk mid way through and gave up. So I put a bare bones gui on it, and fired up the graphical client.”
He also wrote about classic cars and that he grew up in Indiana. In one thread, he wrote that his father smelled of “Jim Beam and failure.” He also wrote about Burning Man: “To those that think burning man is entirely unique… well, just 452 miles down I-80, and but 2 weeks prior to burning man is another one of the greatest things that happens on the planet.”
Smith had a business at one time called Polyhead.net. Online records show he was born in Indiana.
3. Police Wrote That They Encountered an ‘Extremely Chaotic’ Scene; a Victim Claims Smith Called Her a ‘Terrorist’
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In the press release, Portland police wrote, “The scene was extremely chaotic, and a number of witnesses were uncooperative with responding officers. Most people on scene left without talking to police. Detectives believe a large number of people either witnessed what happened, or recorded the incident as it unfolded. This is a very complicated incident, and investigators are trying to put this puzzle together without having all the pieces.”
They further noted:
On February 19, 2022, at 8:01 p.m., officers from the North Precinct responded to a shooting call near the intersection of Northeast 55th Avenue and Northeast Hassalo Street. When officers arrived they located a female victim who was deceased. Additional shooting victims, two men and three women, were transported to area hospitals and their status is unknown at this time.
Portland Police Homicide detectives are responding to the scene to investigate. During the investigation, Northeast 57th Avenue is closed to at Northeast Hassalo Street and to the south. Northeast Hassalo Street is closed from Northeast 57th Avenue to Northeast 55th Avenue. Additionally, Northeast 55th Avenue is closed from Northeast Hassalo Street to Northeast Halsey Street.
Police were supposed to hold a news briefing the day after the shooting but cancelled it when it was disrupted by protesters, according to the Portland Tribune.
One Twitter user who says she was shot alleged that the shooter called her a “violent terrorist” before opening fire.
Authorities have not confirmed that detail. “I was hit four times, and I’m lucky to be alive,” the Twitter user wrote.
Another Twitter user wrote, “We were unarmed traffic safety volunteers who weren’t with any protestors. Four women trying to de-escalate & he unloaded a 45 into us because he didn’t like being asked to leave and stop calling us terrorist c*nts. We were in high vis and dresses. He murdered a disabled woman. … It was a 50-60 year old white man. The exchange lasted under two minutes. He came there to kill us, I am positive. He thought we were protestors.”
The Twitter user continued, “I want people to know that when our brave, beloved friend left this world she was not alone. I was with her. I was holding her and stroking her head and holding her hand and talking to her. She wasn’t alone. I don’t know what comfort there is in that but she wasn’t alone.”
Journalist Sergio Olmos wrote on Twitter, “A victim says a man approached her and a few other women and screamed that they were ‘terrorists’ responsible for violence in the city. He yelled a misogynistic slur at them and said ‘If I see you come past my house, I’ll shoot you.’ Later, he shot them.”
4. Smith’s Roommate Said He Used Racial Slurs & Became More ‘Radicalized’ During the Trump Administration
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Smith’s roommate Kristine Christenson told OPB that Smith let her stay with him for free initially, saying, “When I first moved in, he seemed fine. He was actually not that bad of a guy.”
She told the site he became more “radicalized” during the Donald Trump administration. She heard him “yelling racial slurs in his room and deriding women,” the site reported.
“As the years went on, he’s just gotten more and more radicalized. He got angrier and angrier,” Christenson told OPB. “I have not been comfortable living with him for a while. I did not feel safe with him, especially this last two years with the whole COVID thing. I think that made him even more angry.”
Christenson told OregonLive a similar account, saying, “He went from ‘FU police’ to ‘Blue Lives Matter’ in the last year.” She described him as “a very ‘fly off the handle’ kind of guy who made me uncomfortable.”
His brother, Aurthur Killion, told OregonLive that Smith “had multiple issues with protesters in his neighborhood. He said they had threatened him and others personally in the past. He said he was ready to defend himself.”
Killion added of his brother: “He had no love for them. But he’s not some right-wing nutjob. He’s a master machinist.”
5. Knightly Posted About Black Lives Matter & Kyle Rittenhouse on Facebook
On Facebook, Knightly described herself as, “#BLACKLIVESMATTER, corker, feeder, and mom. #NOJUSTICENOPEACE.”
Her cover photo says “f*** Rittenhouse, these courts don’t deserve justice,” after the Kenosha teenager who was acquitted after shooting three people, killing two of them, in a Black Lives Matter protest.
Knightly’s Facebook page says she’s from New Orleans, Louisiana, and lived in Portland, Oregon. She posted information about feeding “unhoused people” in Portland and efforts to obtain winter clothing for people in need.
In October, she wrote on Facebook, “We’re no better than Mississippi, et al. Oregon is fraught with racism too, at every level.” She wrote about street art being painted over, writing, “White fragility is not ‘patriotism.'”
Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement that the city’s “collective sadness and frustration” over the shooting “fuels my commitment to do all that is in my power to reduce the gun violence that is traumatizing our beloved city,” according to NBC News.
Knightly’s loved ones and friends posted tributes to her on social media. “My morning started with a friend coming to our house to tell us that our friend June Knightly was killed in the shooting that happened in NE Portland at the park located at 55th and Halsey. I am stunned and so sad,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
Another person wrote, “update: the woman who killed was 60, a lovely person who was a help to many, a beautiful soul who only represented care and peace. June Knightly — T-rex — we will not forget. the others badly injured are gorgeous wonderful people through and through. I’m crying.”
According to OregonLive, Knightly’s wife Katherine Knapp told the newspaper that Knightly began protesting after George Floyd marches went by their home. They worked to shield other protesters from violence, she said. Knightly was a cancer survivor. “She started doing that naturally and then it became her mission,” Knapp told the newspaper.
Of the suspect, Knapp told the newspaper, “She would have been the one talking to him to deescalate things. She was really good at that and trying to be human with him and trying to understand.”
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