UPDATE: Man charged with stabbing Black teens on MAX train rejected from jail twice

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Sept. 12, 2023 11:49 p.m. Updated: Sept. 14, 2023 11:49 p.m.

Adrian Cummins was supposed to be in jail when he uttered a racist slur and then stabbed two Black teenagers on a Portland light rail train on Sept. 2, Multnomah County prosecutors alleged in court records.

In fact, police officers arrested and took Cummins to the Multnomah County Detention Center at least two times on different charges in the weeks leading up to the stabbings. Each time, the county’s Correctional Health Division prevented the jail from booking Cummins, 25, into the facility, citing unspecified medical conditions.


Cummins, who is white, was indicted by a Multnomah County grand jury last Friday on charges that include attempted murder, assault, robbery and bias, Oregon’s statute for hate crimes.

Portland police respond to reports of a stabbing on a TriMet MAX Light Rail train Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Southeast Portland, Ore.

Portland police respond to reports of a stabbing on a TriMet MAX Light Rail train Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Southeast Portland, Ore.

Photo courtesy of the Portland Police Bureau

Cummins’ alleged criminal behavior before the stabbing, as well as his not being jailed, carries echoes of the 2017 stabbing on a crowded Portland MAX train that left two men dead and a third severely injured — a crime that shook the city and drew international headlines. In that case Jeremy Christian spouted off racist bile at two young women of color. Christian was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cummins’ charges and his release from the Multnomah County Jail have drawn far less scrutiny, even as records show officials potentially had multiple opportunities to intervene before the Sept. 2 stabbings.

The attack

The teens injured in the September attack — identified in court documents filed by Multnomah County prosecutors as “JM” and “DM” — were traveling to the Clackamas Transit Center when Cummins stood up and yelled a curse word and racial slur at them. JM told police Cummins then stabbed DM in the chest with a serrated knife that was 3.5 inches long. Cummins then allegedly sliced JM on his arm.

“JM said he had no idea why this happened, did not know why Cummins called them a racial slur and that he did not know Cummins,” prosecutors stated in court docs. Cummins then left the train, JM told police once officers arrived at the Flavel MAX station platform.

DM was transported to Oregon Health and Science University for emergency open-heart surgery. Cummins struck DM’s heart, causing internal bleeding around his lungs, police said in court records. JM was treated by paramedics at the scene.

After the Sept. 2 stabbings, Cummins entered a convenience store near Southeast Flavel Street and Southeast 92nd Avenue in Portland, where he grabbed snacks and attempted to run away without paying, prosecutors stated. A clerk attempted to stop Cummins, who then allegedly drew the knife he used to assault the teenagers and nearly stabbed the clerk in the torso.

Portland Police officers arrested Cummins after a short chase. One officer saw Cummins “throw a knife out of his pocket to the ground,” prosecutors stated.

Prior encounters

Cummins’ arrest on Sept. 2 ended a monthslong spree of criminality, according to prosecutors.

Charging documents say Cummins also used a knife during a separate incident on July 7, when someone asked him to leave a restaurant near Union Station in downtown Portland. After being asked to leave, prosecutors said Cummins responded by shouting an expletive, pulling a knife on a private security officer, and taking “four to six steps towards him while wielding the open blade.”

Portland Police officers arrested Cummins. He had “abscesses on his face” officers found concerning enough that they requested paramedics, who took him by ambulance to the hospital, according to a timeline of events issued by Portland Police on Thursday. It wasn’t the last time Cummins was arrested.

“Adrian Cummins was brought to the jail twice in August and each time Mr. Cummins was refused by Corrections Health for medical and health reasons,” Chris Liedle, a spokesperson for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, told OPB. “His booking charges were accepted and so the decision to refuse him was due to medical and health reasons.”


On Thursday, Portland Police clarified the number of times Cummins was arrested and that officers attempted to book him into the Multnomah County Detention Center. Previously, Liedle said Cummins was taken to the jail in July and refused booking by corrections health.

While jail health care staff work inside the detention facility, Corrections Health is run by Multnomah County’s Health Department, not the sheriff’s office. The county’s public relations staff declined to answer specific questions, citing health privacy laws. They also declined an interview with OPB to clarify why Cummins was released multiple times.

“Unfortunately we don’t have anyone available to talk about the specifics of this case,” Sarah Dean, a spokesperson for the county wrote in an email to OPB. “Multnomah County Detention Center cannot accept individuals who require advanced medical care from a hospital. The jail is not a hospital. Corrections Health staff do not leave the facility.”

Cases where a person swallowed drugs, is severely intoxicated or has open or infected wounds are all instances that could prevent health staff from refusing to accept someone into the jail’s custody, Dean wrote.

“Nursing judgment comes into the equation as well as part of the assessment process,” she wrote.

Corrections Health staff did seemingly allow Cummins to be booked at the jail following the Sept. 2 stabbing. That differed from the prior encounters.

On July 7, police officers learned from hospital staff that Cummins would need stay to get surgery on his jaw, according to Portland police.

“By that time it was nearly midnight,” Sgt. Kevin Allen stated in an email. “Officers consulted with a supervisor and ultimately decided that it was prudent to serve Cummins with a criminal citation for Menacing and Unlawful Use of a Weapon.”

He was also given an Aug. 10 court date, which he missed. A judge issued a warrant for Cummins’ arrest and an order that he be held in custody until a Sept. 27 hearing, according to court records.

On Aug. 23, officers with Portland State University found Cummins urinating on the north side of Millar Library. Cummins carried two knives and an expandable baton, according to the police report. Officers said they noted Cummins’ outstanding warrant for the July 7 knife incident and arrested him.

“I asked Cummins if he used the blue rubber band to secure the black fixed blade knife that was in his left sleeve,” Campus Safety Officer Miles Weatheroy wrote in his police report. “Cummins stated, ‘I carry it on me all the time like that.’”

Weatheroy took Cummins to the county detention center “where he was refused by MCDC medical staff due to swelling in his face and a potential fracture to his jaw from a previous incident,” the officer stated in his report.

Weatheroy wrote officers did not use force when they arrested Cummins. Since Cummins was refused booking at the jail, Weatheroy cited Cummins for carrying a concealed weapon.

“I offered to call an ambulance for Cummins for medical evaluation at SW 2nd Ave and Main Street,” Weatheroy wrote. Cummins refused and Weatheroy released him from custody outside the Multnomah County Justice Center.

Weatheroy said he took the two knives he removed from Cummins — a 5-inch, fixed blade knife and a 3.25 inch black dagger — into evidence.

Finally, on Aug. 30, Cummins was stopped by Portland Police officers again after jay-walking. Officers saw he had a warrant for his arrest related to the July 7 knife incident at Union Station. For the third time, he was denied booking into the jail “due to an abscess in his mouth,” the police report states.

After the Sept. 2 stabbings on the TriMet light rail train, Cummins was arrested by Portland Police and brought for a fourth time to Multnomah County Detention Center. Records show he was booked into custody at 12:17 a.m. on Sept. 3.

Multnomah County declined to say what changed with Cummins during the course of three days that made it medically possible to book him into custody.

Correction: This article previously contained incorrect information provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office on how many times Adrian Cummins was taken to jail.