Three men who stepped in to stop a man from shouting slurs at passengers were stabbed, two fatally, on a Portland train Friday.
Portland police said a man on the MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Station was “yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions” when people “attempted to intervene with the suspect and calm him down.” Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, Ore., and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Southeast Portland were stabbed to death. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of Southeast Portland was in the hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Train service was halted for several hours Friday evening as the scene was investigated.
Best, a 23-year Army veteran, worked as a technician for the city’s Bureau of Development Services and once ran for Clackamas County commissioner. Namkai-Meche had recently finished his economics degree and was working at a consulting firm.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree, and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Multnomah County Court. His criminal record includes robbery; police said he was not flagged as a gang member and does not have any known mental health history. The department said officers are reviewing “information publicly available about the suspect’s extremist ideology” including his trove of Facebook posts.
The Oregonian posted video of Christian participating in the April 29 March for Free Speech, a counterprotest against Antifa, video that Christian posted on his Facebook page. “Another video of the event shows Christian, standing in a Burger King parking lot and wrapped in a Revolutionary War-era American flag, casting Nazi salutes while shouting: ‘Die Muslims!'” the paper said.
Police have spoken with, but are not releasing the names of, two young women, one wearing a hijab, who were reportedly being harassed by Christian. Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said the assailant was using “hate speech or biased language.”
“In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at,” Simpson said. “They were attacked viciously.”
“Our thoughts are with the Muslim community,” the police spokesman later added. “As something like this happens, this only instills fear in that community. We have already reached out previous to this incident to our Muslim community partners and the different imams about extra patrol during Ramadan. We want to reassure them that that will continue.” Ramadan began Friday evening.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was flying to London when the attack occurred and caught the first flight home.
“Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn’t know against hatred. Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes,” Wheeler said in a statement. “There is too much hatred in our world right now, and far too much violence. Too much of it has arrived here in Portland.”
“My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives, and to those who witnessed what happened. Thank you to our first responders, who provided aid, and police who captured the suspected killer,” he added. “Now is the time, we must come together as a community and love one another. We must reject hatred and violence. We must seek justice.”
The FBI, which has offered assistance to Portland police and will determine if federal crimes were committed, said in a statement, “Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered.”