Benjamin J. Smith, haggard, in a wheelchair and wearing prison scrubs, sat before Judge Christopher Marshall in Multnomah County Circuit Court today and pleaded guilty to murdering June Knightly, 60, as she helped direct traffic around a protest march. He also pleaded guilty to eight other violent, armed felonies that night in February 2022.
In a press statement after the hearing, Katherine Knapp, Knightly’s wife of 20 years, said: “Finally, Smith cannot escape the reality of his crimes.”
Smith, now 44, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. Formal sentencing is set for April 18.
Smith lived near Normandale Park in Northeast Portland. On the evening of Feb. 19, 2022, demonstrators began a protest march there against police shootings, both nationwide and in Portland, including protests about the police shooting of Patrick Kimmons, who had been killed by police in September 2018 after he shot and wounded two people.
Smith, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, left his apartment and confronted the marchers, demanding that they leave the area. As protest volunteers tried to calm Smith, he began shooting. Knightly died from a gunshot to the head; four others were wounded, including one person left paralyzed. (These four other victims were the source of Smith’s eight charges of attempted murder and first- and second-degree assault, to all of which he pleaded guilty.) A demonstrator then returned fire, hitting Smith in the hip, and thereby ending Smith’s attack.
Marshall began today’s proceedings with a request for calm in the courtroom, acknowledging slowly, repeatedly and seriously, “These are events that should not be part of human experience, but they are.” The dozen or so supporters of the demonstrators remained still.
At the close of the hearing, Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies wheeled Benjamin Smith back to confinement.