U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist aimed at with realistic AR-15 style airsoft gun in Portland

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 8, 2021
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 23, 2021 - Update

Man convicted of menacing after pointing gun at journalist

A man who aimed an airsoft gun modeled on an AR-15 rifle at freelance photojournalist Justin Yau in Portland, Oregon, was sentenced on Sept. 23, 2021, to two years of probation for his conviction on menacing, according to court documents reviewed by the US Press Freedom Tracker.

Hours after a clash in August 2021 between demonstrators involving bear spray, soft guns and paintball guns, Yau and several other journalists captured Mark Allen Lee walking through downtown Portland with what appeared to them to be an AR-15 rifle and then aiming the weapon directly at Yau.

Lee himself called 911 and visited a police precinct to report that several people were following him, The Oregonian reported, but was arrested several days later and charged with unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and possession of a loaded firearm in a public place. Police seized the weapon and confirmed that it was an airsoft gun designed to shoot plastic projectiles.

Lee was sentenced on one menacing charge to two years of probation; the other charges were dismissed and his case was closed in September 2022. An entry on his case docket on July 28, 2023, states that he completed 73.5 hours of community service.

August 8, 2021

A man walking around downtown Portland, Oregon, aimed an airsoft gun modeled on an AR-15 rifle at freelance photojournalist Justin Yau on Aug. 8, 2021. The man was later arrested on charges of menacing and disorderly conduct, local NBC affiliate KGW reported.

According to KGW, right- and left-wing demonstrators had clashed earlier that day at a religious gathering in Tom McCall Waterfront Park led by a Christian musician known for his opposition to COVID-19 restrictions. The groups, which had also clashed the previous night, had brawled and used various weapons, including bear spray, airsoft guns and paintball guns, The Oregonian reported.

At about 11 p.m., several journalists including Yau and freelance journalists Nathan Howard and Sergio Olmos photographed a man walking through downtown with what they described as an AR-15 rifle. In footage captured by Olmos, the individual can be seen aiming the weapon directly at Yau as he continues to photograph the encounter. Yau did not respond to messages requesting comment.

According to The Oregonian, the man, identified as Mark Lee, called 911 claiming several people were following him and was told to walk to a nearby police precinct. Lee left the station that night, but police launched an investigation into the incident that ultimately led to Lee’s arrest on Aug. 12 on three counts of menacing and one count of second-degree disorderly conduct.

Police confirmed that Lee’s weapon was an airsoft gun, a sports gun designed to shoot plastic projectiles. The weapon was seized, along with a military-style tactical vest, gas mask and seven knives, KGW reported.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].