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?
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]