PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two men were killed and another was injured by a man who police said was yelling anti-Muslim slurs at a woman in a hijab on a MAX train on Friday afternoon.
Witnesses told KOIN 6 News a man, later identified as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian, was yelling about hating Muslims and other things for several minutes before people confronted him, possibly trying to defend the young woman wearing a hijab.
“This suspect was on the train and he was yelling and ranting and raving, a lot of different things, including what would be characterized as hate speech or bias language,” Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson said. “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 he was yelling at and they were attacked viciously by the suspect.”
Police said there were 2 young women who may be Muslim, one wearing a hijab, being harassed by the suspect. Those women left the scene but police have identified them and are speaking to them as witnesses to the crime.
Witnesses said one of the victims was stabbed in the neck and passengers rushed to help.
“…They were attacked viciously” — Pete Simpson
Portland police said one man was found suffering from traumatic injuries and first responders attempted to save his life, but he died at the scene. Two other victims were taken to the hospital, where one died and the other is expected to survive.
The man who died at the scene was 53-year-old Ricky John Best, of Happy Valley and the man who died later was 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, of SE Portland, Portland police confirmed.
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche’s mother shared a post on Facebook saying:
My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland. He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”
The other victim, who is still being treated at a Portland hospital, is Micah David-Cole Fletcher, of SE Portland. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner is scheduled to conduct autopsies on the victims Saturday.
According to witnesses, Christian said he was going to get off the MAX at the next stop and said no one should follow him.
Portland police took Christian into custody near the Providence Medical Center after he ran south into the nearby neighborhoods. Police are not sure what led him to attack and said it’s unclear if he was intoxicated or suffering from a mental health issue. He received medical treatment before being taken into the custody of homicide detectives.
According to court records, Christian became a convicted felon in 2002 when he resolved two pending criminal case by way of a play agreement with the State. Read more about him here.
“It’s horrific. There’s no other word to describe what happened today,” Simpson said. “For the victims, our thoughts and prayers are with their families… for the witnesses, there is no other word, it is simply awful.”
Witnesses described the terror on the train as commuters rushed to help the injured and call 911. Police commended witnesses who called 911, helped officers track down the suspect and attempted life saving measures on the victims.
“Obviously this was incredibly scary for people that were there,” Simpson said.
The Multnomah County Health Call Center is reminding the community that its services are available for anyone involved. The call center is open 24/7.
“It looks like it could stir up a lot of bad feelings that people have,” Mike Pullen with Multnomah County said. “Whether you were on the train or you heard about it on the news, these kind of events, maybe you’re a veteran, maybe you’re somebody whose experience domestic violence, this can trigger some very deep sadness and trauma for people.”
You can call 503.988.4888 or toll free to 800.716.9769 to speak to a trained operator. The hearing impaired can dial 711 to be connected to the center.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also offered its resources to help Portland police with the investigation. In a statement released Friday night, the FBI of Oregon said:
At the core of the FBI’s mission is the belief that every person has the right to live, work and worship in this country without fear. Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered.
Special agent Loren Cannon said investigators are working with PPB to bring justice after this tragedy. He said it’s too early to say if the crime was an act of domestic terrorism, or a federate hate crime, but, “there’s a day of reckoning coming, a day of accountability.”
Anyone who was a witness to or has information about this incident is asked to call the Police Non-Emergency Line at 503-823-3333.
Andrew Dymburt, Cole Miller and Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.