PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The suspect in a deadly stabbing on MAX train shouted about terrorism during his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon.
Jeremy Christian, 35, was arraigned on a number of charges at 2:30 p.m. inside the Multnomah County Justice Center Courthouse.
He is accused of stabbing and killing 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and 53-year-old Ricky Best after they stood up for 2 women who Christian was allegedly yelling racial slurs at. Another victim, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, survived.
Fletcher appeared in court for the arraignment of his alleged attacker.
During his arraignment Tuesday, Christian yelled, “Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe space. This is America, get out if you don’t like free speech.”
“You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism,” he continued. “You hear me? Die.”
Someone screaming inside the courtroom caused the arraignment to be disrupted, and Fletcher left through a locked door that is typically reserved for the judge and staff. The public and media were held inside the courtroom until corrections deputies were able to remove the person who was screaming.
A man who appeared to be a friend or supporter of Christian showed up outside the courthouse, along with people from several groups including Don’t Shoot PDX and Portland’s Resistance. Most people in the crowd didn’t welcome the man affiliated with Christian, and an outburst erupted. He was later escorted off the property.
Records obtained by KOIN 6 News show Christian yelled racial and religious epithets and threatened to decapitate people during Friday’s attack.
In court documents, the homicide detective investigating the triple stabbing said surveillance and cellphone video shows Christian cutting the 3 victims with a knife.
Police and witnesses said the victims were defending 2 teen girls, one who is black and the other who was wearing a hijab, who were the focus of Christian’s tirade. The girls reportedly told investigators they had felt threatened.
Police said they have been working tirelessly since Friday to investigate the “horrific events” and received many tips about Christian’s prior behavior. KOIN 6 News learned about his criminal history and reported on his rant captured on video on Thursday night, the night before the attack.
Multnomah County Presiding Judge Nan Waller reviewed the affidavit on Sunday and determined the probable cause for Christian’s weekend detention be continued. The reason Waller reviewed the case early was a standard procedure because of the 3-day holiday weekend, court staff said.
A Portland Police Bureau arrest report sheet, obtained by KOIN 6 News, shows Christian was armed with “lethal cutting instruments” when he was arrested.
On Tuesday, police confirmed Christian’s true legal name is “Jeremiah Joseph Christian” and that he uses the name “Jeremy.”
Christian is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of second-degree intimidation and one count each of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
Metropolitan Public Defenders Executive Director Lane Borg released a statement:
The sudden and violent death of anyone is shocking, and particularly on the eve of what promised to be a warm and sunny holiday weekend. Like all Portlanders, we at Metropolitan Public Defenders are saddened by this tragedy. And while I am aware of the demands of the news cycle in the digital age, I cannot help reflecting that instant news on the internet falls short when compared 200 years of our criminal justice system – a system which demands examination, consideration and deliberation. It is prudent to take the slower but proven system every time. To find justice we must take the time to let this case play out, and if appropriate, to have its day in court. That is not satisfying to our appetite for news now, but in the end it is the better way.
Here is an explanation of charges he faces:
Aggravated murder is a capital offense and Oregon’s most serious crime. Prosecutors have not yet disclosed their legal theory for charging Christian with aggravated murder, but one of the expected theories is that there was more than one murder victim in the same criminal episode.
In 2011, Governor John Kitzhaber put a halt to all executions in the state. Current Governor Kate Brown upheld the policy when she took office, and has not commented much about her stance on the death penalty since.
If someone is convicted of aggravated murder, they are subjected to 3 sentencing options: death, life in prison or true life. Under state law, a life in prison sentence means the killer would have to spend a minimum of 30 years in prison before being eligible to apply for parole. A true life sentence means the killer would never be released from jail.
Based on the initial jail charging decision made by police, detectives believe there is potentially some evidence of a hate crime, under state hate crime laws.
Christian is charged with 2 counts of second-degree intimidation.
Under Oregon law, a person commits the crime of intimidation in the second degree if they intentionally subject another person to offensive physical contact, or subjects the other person to alarm by threatening to inflict serious physical injury, because of the person’s perception of the other’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.
Second-degree intimidation is a Class A misdemeanor.
Being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon
Police have not described the type of knife used in Friday’s MAX attack. However, based on state law, it appears it was a small sized knife or edged weapon.
Oregon law prohibits convicted felons from being in possession of certain weapons including those with a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or centrifugal force. Any blackjack, slungshot, sandclub, sandbag, sap glove, metal knuckles or an Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology or dirk, dagger or stiletto is also prohibited.
Christian is being held without bail. In Multnomah County, anyone accused of murder or aggravated murder is automatically held without bail until their first court appearance. Judges have historically always denied bail at the first appearances until an actual bail hearing can be heard at a later date.