Benjamin Smith, the man accused of fatally shooting one traffic volunteer and injuring four others during a racial justice march at Normandale Park, pleaded guilty on nine counts in Multnomah County court Wednesday. Kat Knapp, the wife of shooting victim June Knightly, said Smith’s plea was a small satisfaction during a press conference following the hearing.
“Today, we can take some small satisfaction that Benjamin Smith has finally had to accept the truth,” Knapp said. “We can see that he is, in fact, guilty as charged on all counts.”
On February 19, 2022, Smith approached a group of unarmed traffic safety volunteers who were helping guide a protest near Normandale Park against police killings. During Wednesday's hearing, Smith—who lived nearby the park—admitted to shooting five people, killing one woman named June Knightly. The four surviving victims have not been identified by the court in order to protect their identities. Smith allegedly stopped shooting when another person shot him in the hip. Smith was treated at Oregon Health and Science University for a month following the shooting, before being booked into the Multnomah County jail in late March 2022.
Smith originally pleaded not guilty to all charges when he was booked in March. Smith changed his plea Wednesday, pleading guilty to one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault in the first degree, and two counts of assault in the second degree. By changing his plea, Smith forgoes his right to a trial and will be sentenced by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Christopher Marshall on April 18.
“There are just some life events that should not be a part of the human experience, but they are,” Marshall said Wednesday to a crowded courtroom. “I know for many of you it’s difficult to be here.”
At the press conference following Wednesday’s hearing, Knapp criticized the Portland Police Bureau for incorrectly stating that the five traffic safety volunteers were armed at the time of the attack. Knapp said the Portland Police Bureau has not apologized or corrected that statement.
“The only reason Benjamin Smith finally pled guilty today is because one of the shooting victims had the presence of mind to turn on their helmet camera and document what was quickly becoming a dangerous situation,” Knapp said.