A 35-year-old white supremacist with a criminal record has been identified as the suspect under arrest in connection with the stabbing death Friday of two people on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore., who intervened when he began to hurl anti-Muslim epithets at two women, one who was wearing a hijab.
Jeremy Joseph Christian of North Portland was jailed early Saturday on two charges of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree and felon in possession of a restricted weapon. Christian is being held without bail, and could face additional charges when a district attorney presents the case to a grand jury, police said.
The incident occurred on a light rail line during rush hour Friday. The two men who were killed appear to have been good Samaritans who stepped in to protect the women from racial slurs. A Facebook post from his mother said one of the two men who was killed was Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, a recent graduate of Reed College.
“Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland,” the post said. “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”
Police said the names of the victims, including another man who was injured, will be released Saturday afternoon after autopsies are conducted.
Larry Blackwood was riding in an adjacent car as the train car filled with commuters pulled in to the Hollywood Metropolitan Area Express — known as MAX — light rail station, and described hearing a woman’s “gut-wrenching” scream: “He’s stabbing people, he’s stabbing people!”
He jumped off the train, he says, and faced a horrific scene.
“As I ran off the MAX, I seen two people bleeding out of their necks,” says Blackwood, 27, a lunchtime cook at Portland City Grill on his way home from work. “Literally from the front to the back [of the car], there was blood everywhere. There was a man screaming, ‘Please, help my son, he needs a doctor!'”
“Witnesses describe his verbal behavior as wide-ranging in the ethnicities he was yelling about,” Sgt. Simpson said. “I wouldn’t say he was just focused on one particular religion or ethnicity, I would say he was ranting about many things.”
A Facebook profile that appears to be that of the man in custody contains neo-Nazi statements like “Yep. Im a nazi [sic],” “Hail Vinland” and “I will defend the Nazis.” The page is filled with vitriol such as “I want a job in Norway cutting off the heads of people that Circumcize [sic] Babies”) and shows Christian to have been a participant in right wing rallies in 2017 in Portland.
Imam Mikal Shabazz, director of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization, said late Friday Police Chief Mike Marshman’s office made it clear to him they view the crime as a hate crime.
“More than the fact that this individual was alleged to have made Islamophobic statements, when the chief’s office called, they did confirm that they’ve come to the conclusion that this is a hate-related crime, and they held off doing so until they had enough reason to say ‘Yes, this is what it was.’”
The attack occurred on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest of Muslim holidays.
“Certainly it’s not lost on us that this horrific act occurred on the beginning of Ramadan,” Simpson said. “While we don’t yet know the motivations behind the attack, what we do know is there was some hate speech used leading up to the attack and that’s certainly very concerning.”
Police are asking the public for help and hoping to obtain statements from other potential witnesses — starting with the two young Muslim women, one of whom reportedly wore hijab, a cloth that covers the hair. Like many on the train, the pair didn’t stick around after the attack.
“I realize even saying ‘two young Muslim girls,’ you could go from East African to Central European. But that’s how they were described to us,” Simpson said.
There have been recent hate crimes in metro Portland, one of the most heavily Caucasian large U.S. cities. Last year, 19-year-old Larnell Bruce was run over by an admitted white supremacist in a parking lot in Gresham, a suburb.
But there’s been nothing targeting Muslims that rises to this level, police say.
“If this turns out to be classified that way, certainly [there’s been] nothing of this caliber,” Simpson said.
Friday night, people in Portland’s Muslim community were just beginning to grasp it, and reactions were emotional.
“It’s just starting to reverberate out through the community what actually happened,” Shabazz said.
Musse Olol, chairman of the Somali-American Council of Oregon, got the news after leaving a meeting with police and Muslim leaders to talk about security during Ramadan. Normally, he said, he would spend the first hours of the monthlong holiday worshiping.
Instead, Friday night he was working the phones until the wee hours.
“It’s the timing, that is what makes it very difficult,” Olol said. “It’s close to home. It’s too close for comfort. It’s worrisome.”
Olol began weeping as he spoke of the two yet-unidentified men who died in the attack.
“Most of the imams I talked to wanted to know who were these good Samaritans,” Olol said. “These two guys are the heroes, the story should be about them, not the terrorist and the girls who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Read the rest of the story at latimes.com.