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Victims In Deadly Portland Hate Speech Attack Identified, Suspect Charged With Murder

Community members have created a memorial for victims of Friday's attack at the Hollywood MAX station. A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday night.

Community members have created a memorial for victims of Friday’s attack at the Hollywood MAX station. A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday night.

Molly Solomon/OPB

The Portland man suspected of fatally stabbing two people on a MAX train Friday afternoon has been identified as Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland.

Portland Police say Christian is charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of intimidation in the second degree and felon in possession of a restricted weapon. 

Police identified the deceased victims as Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Southeast Portland and Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley. The surviving victim, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of Southeast Portland, is being treated at a Portland hospital.

“The current political climate allows far too much room for those who spread bigotry,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Saturday afternoon.

Namkai-Meche graduated with a degree in economics from Reed College in 2016. In a public Facebook post, his mother Asha Deliverance said: “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”

Best was an Army veteran who worked for the city of Portland at the Bureau of Developments Services.

Micah David-Cole Fletcher is an alumni of Madison High School.

In 2013 he won the Literary Arts poetry slam competition “Verselandia.” Along with the other finalists, he performed and reflected on his poetry on OPB’s Think Out Loud. He said:

“It’s the other people that need to be heard now. The one thing I think all the negative experiences in my life have taught me, if anything, is that it is not about you. You are one person. On one planet in one galaxy in one universe,” said David-Cole Fletcher.

“Trust me, you by yourself are not what makes everything so beautiful. It’s the combination, the coming together of all these different people from different backgrounds with different beliefs coinciding with one another, the interactions between them and the different products of those interactions that’s what makes society so great,” he said.

The attack happened at the Hollywood Transit Center. Eyewitnesses say the three men approached Christian, who was yelling racial slurs at two women on the train who appeared to be Muslim.

Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland was booked on charges of aggravated murder after the fatal stabbing of two men on a TriMet MAX train Friday, May 26, 2017.

Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland was booked on charges of aggravated murder after the fatal stabbing of two men on a TriMet MAX train Friday, May 26, 2017.

Portland Police Bureau

The women have not been identified but one was described as wearing a hijab, according to authorities. Police say the women have come forward but are not being publicly identified.

“The suspect was on the MAX train yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” Sgt. Pete Simpson wrote in a press release Friday evening. 

Christian, the man accused of the crimes, has posted offensive material and anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media, says Heidi Beirich, with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This guy was definitely expressing anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler material, anti-Muslim rants as well,” said Beirich.

“We have sadly seen far too much violence from people who espouse these ideas.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups and extremist activity across the country, and has been inundated with reports during the first months of the Donald Trump presidency. Beirich said the center had received just under 900 responses within 10 days of the election, and reports had shot up to 1,800 by late January. 

“We’re seeing a wave of hate, both hate speech and hate crimes, across this country that are unprecedented in recent years and require ultimately a forceful response,” Beirich added. “And that’s certainly not something we’re getting out of the Trump administration right now.”

Christian also attended the April 29 “March for Free Speech,” event on 82nd Avenue, a response to the canceled Rose Parade after organizers received a threatening email directed at the local Republican party. He wore an American flag as a cape and a chain around his neck. He frequently used the n-word and extended his arm in a hail Hitler salute.

Jeremy Joseph Christian (center wearing American flag), the man accused of a fatal stabbing on the MAX train, attended the April 29 "March for Free Speech" on 82nd Avenue.

Jeremy Joseph Christian (center wearing American flag), the man accused of a fatal stabbing on the MAX train, attended the April 29 “March for Free Speech” on 82nd Avenue.

Molly Solomon/OPB

Friday’s attack happened just hours before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began. In Southwest Portland, families and worshipers left evening prayer at the Islamic Center of Portland, or Masjed As-Saber, Oregon’s largest mosque.

“We are very sorry for the two men who tried to do the right thing,” said Imtiaz Khan, President of the Islamic Center of Portland.

Khan condemned the attack and believes similar acts of hate speech and harassment toward the Muslim community have gone up since the election.

“Of course people from the Muslim community are concerned. And unfortunately, the easy targets are women because of the headscarf,” said Khan.

“There is too much hatred in our world right now, and far too much violence. Too much of it has arrived here in Portland,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in a statement.

“My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives, and to those who witnessed what happened. Thank you to our first responders, who provided aid, and police who captured the suspected killer,” said Wheeler.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown posted on Facebook that she was heartbroken by the loss of two brave, compassionate lives. “Oregon is a welcoming place to all. Safety while traveling through our community is a basic human right that we need to be able to guarantee to everyone, regardless of where they’re from, or what they believe,” said Brown.

“Evil struck the city of Portland last night and ripped a hole in the heart of Oregon and her people. The Oregonians who lost their lives standing up against hatred will be remembered by many as heroes,” said Oregon House Republican leader Mike McLane.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also aware of Friday’s attacks and says it is offering any available resources to assist the Portland Police.

“It’s too early to say whether last night’s violence was an act of domestic terrorism or a federal hate crime. However, in the coming days, the FBI, PPB and the prosecutors will work together to share information, leverage resources and make determinations about future criminal charges,” said Loren Cannon, FBI Oregon special agent in charge.

Portland Police are asking anyone who witnessed the crime or has information about the incident to call the police non-emergency line at 503-823-3333. 

TriMet transit police commander Sara Westbrook says the transit division will increase the amount of officers riding light rail in the city and surrounding areas.

The community is organizing a candlelight vigil Saturday night to honor the victims of the attack. The vigil starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Hollywood MAX station.

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