The man accused of killing two people onboard a MAX train in Portland this spring “described being on ‘auto pilot’ as the stabbings occurred,” according to a mental health evaluation released Friday.
Prosecutors have charged Jeremy Christian with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, multiple counts of unlawful use of a weapon and multiple counts of intimidation in the second degree.
According to police, on May 26, Christian stabbed three victims on the light rail train, 11 times in 11 seconds.
“Mr. Christian recalled that he was ‘barely conscious of his actions until he heard people yelling: “He’s stabbing them! He’s killing them!”’” according to the evaluation performed by Mark Cunningham, a Seattle-based clinical and forensic psychologist.
Cunningham said his report, which gives a window into how the defense may organize its case, was based on more than 12 hours of interviews with Christian during four separate occasions.
The report gives the most detailed information to date about how Christian views the MAX train attacks.
While he did not give a formal diagnosis, Cunningham found that Christian “exhibits reactions consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder” and appears to have self-medicated his anxiety with substance abuse. Christian also exhibits signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and behavior on a “socialization disorder spectrum,” Cunningham found.
Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht, who is presiding over the case, unsealed Christian’s mental health evaluation Friday. The report was submitted by his defense attorneys as part of their argument to release Christian on bail, which Albrecht denied last month.
The findings depict a man who failed to meet the expected roles of most adults, as well as someone who is obsessively passionate about free speech, especially when it is provocative.
Failure To Becoming An Adult
Christian was born in May 1982. He’s the third of four boys. And since 2010, he’s lived at his parents’ house with his brothers and extended family, the report states.
“Though 35 years old, he has never had his own apartment or lived independently,” Cunningham wrote. Christian’s never married or had a serious romantic relationship and told Cunningham he “did not want to date.”
Christian withdrew from high school as a freshman and was home schooled for one-year. He received his GED when he was 16 years-old, according to the mental health evaluation.
Christian’s longest stretch of employment was at a pizza restaurant, where he worked from ages 16 to 20. Other employment stints have lasted weeks, the report states.
Christian has also spent considerable portions of his life behind bars. When he was 20 years-old, Christian was convicted of armed robbery.
In his psychological evaluation, Cunningham wrote that the robbery itself demonstrates Christian’s “social dysfluency.”
Christian robbed a convenience store where he was well-known while wearing an “inadequate disguise,” Cunningham said.
Christian spent eight years behind bars for the robbery, much of it in solitary confinement, the report states.
“Mr. Christian recalled feeling suicidal in solitary, considering ripping the veins in his wrists with his teeth,” Cunningham wrote.
Christian was released from prison in 2010. Since then, he’s been in and out of prison and jail on a variety of weapons charges.
Comic Books And Moving To South America
Christian reportedly owned about 15,000 comic books stacked in his parents’ living room and his bedroom, and had an “encyclopedic knowledge” of them, according to the report.
“Much of his time has been organized in this pursuit,” Cunningham said. “He described frequenting Goodwill and garage sales for high demand paperback books, which he would sell on Amazon. With the proceeds, he bought comic books.”
The day before the stabbings and his arrest, Christian’s mother allegedly called a family meeting. She told her sons that they needed to remove their belongings from her home, the report states.
She offered to pay for the first two months of a storage facility. But Christian protested.
“This announcement is viewed as a significant stressor for Mr. Christian,” the report states. “The hoarding is a defense against anxiety. The prospect of losing this insulation between the hoarder and the dangers of the world produces significant distress and even panic.”
Cunningham also interviewed one of Christian’s friends for the report. The friend described Christian as a “big kid” — still focused on “comic books and super-heroes.”
Christian told Cunningham he had plans to move to Brazil with proceeds from selling comic books once he saved up $10,000.
“With this money, he would immigrate to Brazil and live among an aboriginal tribe on the Amazon,” the report states. “He exhibited no insight regarding the practical impediments of this plan.”
Christian’s alternative plan was to move to Argentina, because the country lacks copyright laws.
“This would allow him to print comic book images on T-shirts, products which would then be sold worldwide in countries not having intellectual property protection laws,” Cunningham wrote in the report. “The logistics of this seemed to be an irrelevant detail.”
During the attack on the MAX train, Christian said he was “buzzed,” having consumed 20 ounces of sangria earlier that afternoon, the report states.
Christian said his intent the day of the attack, according to the report, was “to do ‘his free speech thing’ on the MAX.”
Cunningham said Christian “lacks insight into the degree of reaction his verbal provocations may stir in others.”
Prosecutors said Christian boarded the train on the eve of Ramadan and shouted racial slurs at two African-American girls, one who was wearing a hijab.
In the report, Cunningham said the girls didn’t cross Christian’s mind.
“He recalled that they were on their headphones and cellphones,” the report states. “He reported that he did not speak to them or direct any of his remarks specifically to them. Mr. Christian recalled that the girls were 15 feet away and moved at some point.”
In testimony during Christian’s bail hearing, police said people on the light rail train began to intervene.
Cunningham writes as people got physically close to Christian, it reminded him of his time in prison.
“He recalled this vulnerability as ‘feeling like prison,’ describing that prison is the only context where he has had to fight multiple assailants — detailing a number of instances where this had occurred,” the report states. “Mr. Christian recalled thinking he needed to ‘take care of business’ as rapidly as possible to keep from being beaten by a group.”
The report also states that Christian denied having any white supremacist beliefs, which several people have accused him of because of the slurs he used. He was also seen at an April rally in Southeast Portland using Nazi salutes.
“Notably absent from Mr. Christian’s fervent espousal of beliefs and opinions was any semblance of assertions of ‘white supremacy,’” Cunningham wrote in the report.
A hearing to discuss scheduling in the case is set for Dec. 15.