By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – A 27-year-old Port Orchard man is in custody after participating in a pro-Trump rally in Olympia and allegedly firing a gun at counter-protesters, Olympia police said.
Christopher Michael Guenzler was arrested the day of the alleged shooting on Dec. 5 and booked into Thurston County Jail on suspicion of first- and second-degree assault. He is being held on $50,000 bail.
As of press time, authorities continue to investigate whether anyone was struck by the gunshot.
On Saturday, a second and unrelated shooting took place in Olympia between pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters. A Shoreline man was arrested by police in connection with that incident.
Since the Nov. 3 election, right- and left-wing groups have clashed on the weekends at the state capital. During the same period, President Donald Trump has raised numerous legal challenges over the election results, all of which have been rejected by the courts.
During the Dec. 5 incident, approximately 50 people comprising pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters were involved in the disturbance, according to police documents filed in court. Supporters were dressed in clothing supportive of Trump, Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp and other right-wing issues while counter-protesters wore black clothing, helmets and carried shields.
There were multiple reports of assaults taking place, smoke bombs and possible shots fired, and rocks and bottles being thrown, police reports stated. In the midst of the confrontation between the two groups, police allege Guenzler raised a handgun and fired a shot at counter-protesters.
The suspect was arrested a short time following the shooting as protesters approached City Hall. Police used photos and video from social media to make an identification. Police indicate Guenzler was carrying a 9mm handgun, a loaded 19-round magazine and pepper spray when he was taken into custody, according to court filings.
Guenzler told police that during the disturbance, Antifa-affiliated individuals were charging Trump supporters and “swinging” at them. He said he was approached by three Antifa members and pointed his firearm to get the individuals to step back, which they did, according to the affidavit of probable cause. He also told officers he did not have his finger on the trigger.
A spent casing found by police in the area of the alleged shooting was of the same type found in the firearm the suspect was carrying, Sgt. Jeff Herbig said.
Attempts to reach Guenzler’s defense attorney for comment were unsuccessful.
A portion of the incident took place near the United Churches of Olympia, according to authorities. The pastor of the congregation, Rev. Tammy Leiter Stampfli, relayed what she observed of the incident on Facebook:
“…I was knocked down in the church parking lot by [a] Trump supporter. This was after being screamed at for being a pastor of ‘such a Church.’ I had stopped with another member to use the bathroom. There had been a full-on brawl between antifa and Trump supporters. People were beating each other, spraying chemicals in each others [sic] eyes, yelling, screaming obscenities.
“I am so disheartened that this continues in our nation. I think that every single one of us needs to do everything we can to bring peace,” she wrote.
Guenzler is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 22 in Thurston County Superior Court.