Driver sentenced for 2019 death of activist

A driver was sentenced to 17 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 11:53 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A man was convicted for the 2019 death of a well-known Portland activist.

Christopher Knipe was sentenced to 17 years behind bars after pleading guilty to first degree manslaughter on Friday.

The case was unsolved for nearly three years after 23-year-old Sean Kealiher was hit and killed by a car. Friends took him to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead, and an autopsy ruled his death as a homicide by blunt force trauma.

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“We’re really upset and sad about it and we’re looking for answers,” Teressa Raiford, a friend of Kealiher said.

Kealiher was described by friends as an outspoken activist and anti-fascist involved in Portland-area protests. Authorities said his killing was not politically motivated.

“What a tragedy the death of this young man was, but the behavior subsequent to that really doesn’t make it easy for businesses here and we actually feel we are under siege,” nearby busines owner Frank Coates said.

Groups gathered to mourn Kealiher following his death, writing his nickname ‘Armenio’ and putting other messages on nearby buildings near where he was hit. A memorial with flowers was also placed near the scene.

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Police found the car that hit Kealiher, a silver SUV, on the sidewalk near Northeast Ninth Avenue and Northeast Everett Street crashed and abandoned, but didn’t make an arrest until nearly three years later.

Portland Police said Christopher Knipe had been identified as one of three people in the suspected car, but it wasn’t until June 2022 that Knipe confessed that he was the driver.