PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The 35-year-old man accused of a deadly hate crime that left two people dead is a convicted felon and has possible ties to white supremacy groups.
Jeremy Joseph Christian was arrested by police shortly after they say he stabbed three people on a MAX train Friday afternoon. Two of the stabbing victims died and a third remains in the hospital being treated for serious injuries.
Witnesses told KOIN 6 News 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.
The Portland Mercury published a report on Saturday that Christian is a “known local white supremacist” — however, police have not confirmed that. Police are investigating Christian’s background and said he is not flagged as a criminal gang member in PPB records. He also doesn’t have a known history of mental health concerns.
In video captured by Portland Mercury reporter Doug Brown, Christian identities himself by name and is later photographed giving a Nazi salute.
The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote a report on Christian’s Facebook page, where he has shared a number of posts on his political views, including anti-Muslim sentiments. On April 28 he shared a meme that read “If we’re removing statues because of the Civil War, we should be removing mosques because of 9/11.”
On May 9 he wrote, “I just Challenged Ben Ferencz(Last Living Nuremberg Persecutor) to a Debate in the Hague with Putin as our judge. I will defend the Nazis and he will defend the AshkeNAZIs.”
Christian is charged with two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation, and one count each of attempted aggravated murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon for carrying a knife.
Police Chief reacts
Speaking by phone on Saturday morning, Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman said the attacks “are hard to comprehend.”
Marshman said he has not personally talked to the family of the three victims, but said his detectives have and that the investigation “is moving forward.” Marshman said that he would be getting a briefing on the investigation sometime Saturday and that detectives are working “to figure out the history of this person.”
“Even though I’ve been doing police work for a long, long time now, the shock of these senseless crimes still stunned me,” Marshman said, “Just horrific.”
Marshman said detectives will “try to determine, not only why this incident happened, but if there was anything leading up to it.”
The chief said he will be asking the bureau’s records division to look to see if there has been an increase in random attacks involving stabbings.
“Anecdotally, it seems to me that incidences with knives are occurring more often,” Marshman said.
Marshman said almost immediately after the attacks on Friday, he, the bureau’s leadership team and other officers reached out to Muslim community partners and immigration groups to reaffirm the bureau’s commitment to providing increased patrols, especially because Ramadan began at sundown .
“We the police can’t do this all by ourselves,” Marshman said. “We need the community to help out and last night it seemed that they paid the ultimate price for it, and that is not fair. It’s not right.”
Marshman said he had seen the Portland Mercury report, but said “I haven’t had any official confirmation that he is tied to a white supremacist group.”
The chief added, “that is one thing our detectives will look at, and that will important for any criminal proceedings as well.”
Records show that Christian’s last known address was in North Portland. Records show that the home belongs to his parents. Attempts to reach them Saturday were not immediately successful. It is unknown if Christian was living at his parent’s address when he allegedly committed the stabbings.
According to court records, Christian is a convicted felon in Oregon.
On May 12, 2002, he was accused of first-degree robbery, second-degree kidnapping, coercion, carrying or using a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm. The case never went to trial because Christian took a plea deal and was convicted on Nov. 4, 2002 of the robbery and kidnapping charges.
According to KOIN 6 News records, Christian was shot in the face by a Portland police officer that day as he fled the scene of the robbery and kidnapping at a convenience store. The officer’s use of force was legally justified by the grand jury.
As part of his sentence, he was ordered to serve as prison sentence with the Oregon Department of Corrections. A spokesperson for the agency said Saturday that Christian hasn’t been in DOC custody since September 2010. The judge who sentenced Christian ordered that the weapon used in the May 12, 2002 crime be confiscated and destroyed. His DNA and blood were also collected at the time of sentencing.
In September, 2002 the DA’s Office in Multnomah County secured an indictment against Christian that charged him with one count each of carrying or using a dangerous weapon and supplying contraband. The incident occurred in Multnomah County on September 13, 2002. When Christian pled guilty to the robbery and kidnapping case, he was also convicted of carrying or using a dangerous weapon. The supplying contraband charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Records show that on Nov. 28, 2010, Christian was accused of being a felon in possession and first-degree theft. He was arraigned on the charges the next day, but the cases against him was ultimately dismissed by the DA’s Office and the case was sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Federal court records show that on January 6, 2011, a grand jury in Portland indicted Christian with one count each of being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a stolen firearm. The firearm in question was a Rossi, .357 caliber revolver.
The charge of being a felon in possession of a stolen firearm was later dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office because, legally, there questions about whether the gun Christian was in possession of was actually reported as stolen.
Christian’s federal conviction didn’t result in any additional prison sentence – just “time served” while he was in custody as his federal case was resolved. He was also ordered to serve 3 years of supervised released.
Under Oregon law, any person convicted of aggravated murder could face one of three sentences: death, life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole, or true life imprisonment. If sentenced to life imprisonment, the court shall order that the defendant be confined for a minimum of 30 years without possibility of parole. A true life sentence means the defendant would never be allowed to get out of prison.
In a press conference Saturday, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Governor Kate Brown and others involved in the investigation spoke about what many of them called a tragic event.
Officials thanked the good Samaritans who stepped in at their own risk and the first responders who helped and caught the suspect.
Investigators were not able to reveal much information out of concern that revealing too much would hamper the investigation. Marshman said detectives were up all night gathering information for their case.
Leaders said this kind of behavior is unacceptable in Portland and they want the Muslim community to know the city supports them.
“Violent words can lead to violent acts,” Wheeler said.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday that Christian is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday, May 31 at 2:30 p.m. at the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland.