Two dead, another injured in MAX train stabbing attack; one person in custody

Police investigate a stabbing that left one dead, three injured Friday, May 26, 2017 at the Hollywood Transit Center. (Photo: Chopper 2/KATU)

Two people died and one person was injured following a stabbing attack inside a MAX train Friday afternoon.

Police were called to the Hollywood Transit Center in Northeast Portland around 4:30 p.m.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene and another man was hospitalized but was quickly pronounced dead. A third person had non-life threatening injuries.

READ MORE: Witnesses say triple stabbing aboard MAX train started as a hate crime attack

Prior to the attack, police say the suspect was yelling hateful statements at two Muslim girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. His speech was not specifically anti-Muslim and his behavior was erratic, Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

The suspect then stabbed two bystanders who attempted to de-escalate the situation, police confirmed. A third person was stabbed as well.

"When the train stopped moving, the guy who stabbed them was cursing and he said, 'This is free America, I can do whatever I want,'" a witness said.

Saturday morning, police identified the suspect as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian of North Portland.

Christian was seen at a march in Portland several weeks ago, where he was spotted giving what looked like the Nazi salute while hurling various insults at protesters.

He's being charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of intimidation and felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

The victims killed have been identified as 53-year-old Ricky John Best of Happy Valley and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche of Southeast Portland. The third surviving victim is 21-year-old Micha David-Cole Fletcher of Southeast Portland.

KATU News has spoken to multiple witnesses, who also said the attack appears to have started as a hate crime.

Simpson said the two young Muslim women had left the train before police arrived. The identities of the women aren't known and Simpson said detectives would like to speak to them.

Police say many people who were on the train at the time fled after the attack without talking to police first. If you were there, call police.

The FBI released a statement late Friday night, saying it is offering Portland police help in its investigation and will be looking to see if any federal laws were broken.

"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," the FBI said in its statement. "Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered."

The stabbings shook City Hall, as well. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, standing in for Mayor Ted Wheeler who is on a flight to London, released a statement on behalf of the City Council.

She praised the actions of those who stood up against the attacker and those who assisted police find the suspect.

"These are troubling times across our city, our country and the world," she said. "We cannot let this divide us. We need to unite against all forms of violence and hate. Our differences should be a cause for celebration, not something that foments hate."

Commissioner Eudaly's full statement:

The city of Portland has a heavy heart right now, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the deceased and injured.
This is an especially sad and disturbing incident. People lost their lives or were injured because they stood up to hate.
We need to offer our heartfelt support to the two women and others who were targeted. The courage of the people who stood up for them is a reminder that we as a city need to stand together to denounce hate.
Thank you to the courageous witnesses who helped police locate the suspect before more people were hurt; thank you to the first responders and medical personnel who arrived quickly to administer aid; and thank you to the police for apprehending the suspect.
These are troubling times across our city, our country and the world. We cannot let this divide us. We need to unite against all forms of violence and hate. Our differences should be a cause for celebration, not something that foments hate.
I'm asking everyone to reach out and connect with your families, your friends and your neighbors. Let's all stand together.
All MAX lines are affected and the transit center is closed.

Just last Friday, a young woman was stabbed by a stranger at the Lloyd Center MAX stop near Holladay Park in NE Portland. She's expected to be OK, and the man accused of stabbing her, 42-year-old Christopher Woods, was arrested for assault and menacing. Friends of the teen say the man tried to hit on her and when she declined his advances, he attacked her.

Around this time last year, TriMet reported their largest ever crime reduction.

"We've seen the largest drop in crime on TriMet to the tune of 40 percent in 2015," Commander Mike Leloff told KATU News last May.

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