Our lawsuit may have cracked a murder case. But we need to keep digging.

After we sued the city of Portland to access police records on the unsolved murder, a suspect was arrested. But we still have questions.

In 2019, Sean Kealiher, a 23-year-old antifascist protester in Portland, Oregon, was run down by a car following an argument outside a bar. As Kealiher bled on the sidewalk, the driver and passengers abandoned the vehicle and left on foot.

Surveillance cameras captured much of the incident, and Kealiher’s mother thought his killing would be an easy case to solve. But for more than two years, police made no arrests. Local activists believed that the department intentionally neglected the investigation due to the victim’s political leanings.

Then The Intercept sued the city of Portland to gain access to police records on the unsolved murder. Shortly after an important motion in our case, police confronted a suspect, who admitted... that he was at the wheel of the car and was later arrested.

The victim’s mother says the arrest would never have happened but for The Intercept’s insistence on getting these records. But the city of Portland is still redacting or refusing to release thousands of pages of documents, and there are still so many questions: What did the police know? When did they know it? Did they try to solve the case at all before we sued them?

We’re continuing our lawsuit against the city of Portland so we can get to the truth, but public records litigation is time-consuming and expensive — and we’re already in the midst of other lawsuits that are driving our legal bills through the roof.

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If police in an area known for political violence were willing to turn a blind eye to the murder of a left-wing protester, the ramifications are huge. And with so many questions lingering about the police’s secretive handling of this case, we need to get to the truth.

Following an important motion in our lawsuit, after years of inaction, Portland police returned to a man widely believed to be involved and confronted him with video evidence that contradicted his alibi. He promptly confessed to driving the car — but police still took another several weeks to arrest him.

When did the police first obtain video evidence, and why didn’t they use it before? Did they know the suspect had a false alibi and choose to do nothing? And why did they take weeks to arrest him even after he confessed to driving the car? We still don’t know. The city of Portland refuses to hand over or unredact the documents that could answer these questions.

We must get to the bottom of this case, no matter what it takes, and we need your support to keep going. We’ve been lucky to receive pro bono help from an attorney in Portland, but our legal team is stretched thin — and over this summer, the reader donations we rely on to fund our nonprofit journalism have declined.

Will you make a donation and support The Intercept’s fearless journalists and legal team today?


Thank you, The Intercept team

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The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Our in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more. Email is an important way for us to communicate with The Intercept’s readers, but if you’d like to stop hearing from us, click here to r0 from all communications. Protecting freedom of the press has never been more important. Contribute now to support our independent journalism.

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