PPB: Suspect hurled insults at Muslim women, slashed throats of men who tried to stop him

A man lights a candle at a memorial at Northeast 42nd and Halsey streets on Friday, May 26, 2017, after an attacker stabbed two people to death on a MAX train. (KATU/Corry Young)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - Portland Police and witnesses say a triple stabbing aboard a MAX train Friday afternoon may have been religiously motivated.

The stabbing was reported around 4:30 p.m. as the train pulled into the Hollywood Transit Center station in Northeast Portland. Two people have been pronounced dead and another has non-life-threatening injuries.

Multiple witnesses told KATU the suspect was hurling racial insults at two women, at least one of whom was wearing a hijab. Police wouldn't confirm their ages, but referred to them as "girls" and "young women."

Sgt. Pete Simpson with Portland Police added the suspect appeared to be acting erratically and wasn't necessarily focused on anti-Muslim insults during the attack.

Two men who came to the women's defense had their throats slashed by the suspect, Simpson said.

He said the two young women had left the train before police arrived. Police have since made contact with them.

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson gives reporters a news briefing about the incident Friday evening.

"[The suspect] said, 'Get off the bus and get out of the country because you don't pay taxes here.' [He said he] doesn't like Muslims, they're criminals," Evelin Hernandez said.

The suspect is in police custody after he was caught in a nearby neighborhood thanks to multiple witness reports.

"It’s horrific. There is no other way to describe it," Simpson 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 Micah David-Cole Fletcher of Southeast Portland.

The FBI released a statement late Friday night, saying it is offering Portland Police help in their 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 was 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 to 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."

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.

One group has announced on Facebook that it is planning a vigil for the victims at the MAX station Saturday night.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help a third, surviving victim who's recovering in the hospital.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off