The Big Picture
The prosecution continued its case against Jeremy Christian Thursday. Christian is accused of killing two people and injuring a third on a TriMet light rail train in Portland in 2017.
Beforehand, witnesses said Christian was shouting racist comments while two young black women were nearby — Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum. Mohamed is Muslim and was wearing a hijab.
Christian is also accused of harassing and assaulting Demetria Hester, an African American woman, on a TriMet light rail train the day prior.
He faces a dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder and intimidation.
The Highlights: What Happened Thursday
Prosecutors called five witnesses to the stand Thursday, including the aunt of one of the victims, the MAX train operator, people who were on the train at the time of the stabbings and a Portland Police officer who responded to the scene.
Beatrix Therese VanOlphen spoke on the stand about a phone call she had with her nephew, Taliesin Namkai-Meche, when he was on the MAX that day.
Namkai-Meche is one of the men who died.
“We were talking about the new house he’d just bought and how he was going to get some roommates to help pay the mortgage,” VanOlphen said.
She said there was loud yelling in the background of the call; Namkai-Meche had told her it was “a crazy person was ranting racist comments.”
VanOlphen said she told her nephew not to get involved, but to maybe take video of what was going on just in case it was something to give to the police later. That was the last time she talked to Namkai-Meche.
Jeffrey Quintana has been a MAX train operator for the past 12 years. He was the operator on the MAX Green Line the day of the stabbings.
He said he could hear an argument occurring in the train from his seat in the cab and made an announcement over the intercom telling people to “settle down.” Quintana said he told the rail controller about that announcement. The controller told him to check in on the car at the Hollywood Station.
Quintana also said he was not aware of any audible signalling or visual flashing from any passengers hitting the call button from inside of the train car.
When the train arrived at the Hollywood Station, Quintana opened the cab’s internal door and someone told him there was a stabbing.
He said he closed the door back and locked it, waiting for the police.
“I was kind of fearing for my life because I don’t have any defense, any training defense against a knife,” Quintana said. “So I didn’t get out of the cab for my safety.”
There were “unfathomable amounts of blood on the floor,” Portland Police Officer Rehanna Kerridge said. “I ended up throwing my boots away because they were saturated with blood.”
Kerridge was the first officer to respond to the scene on May 26, 2017. She had been on patrol when she got the call about a disturbance on the MAX. “Traffic was really bad,” she said. "It was the Friday before a three-day weekend.”
She and other officers, as they arrived, offered aid to victims while waiting for medical staff.
Charles Button was a Portland State University student at the time of the attacks, working to eventually go to medical school. He was on the train that day.
Button was seated near the back of the train and couldn’t see what was going on up front, but he said he heard a man yelling things along the lines of: “Immigrants are ruining this country. Trump will fix this,” and something along the lines of “illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.”
He didn’t see the stabbing take place, but he heard screams and saw people running from the train.
Button said he attempted to administer aid to Ricky Best, one of the victims, using his sweatshirt to apply pressure to Best’s neck wound.
Chief deputy district attorney Donald Rees asked Button how he felt after aiding Best.
“I was very shaky. I was covered in blood from my toes to my knees and my hands. I was very sad and trying to figure out what to do next after this,” Button said. “I just felt like I’d let the man down on the train.”
What Happens Next
Jurors are expected to tour a MAX train car at a secure TriMet facility Thursday afternoon. The media and the public are not allowed to attend. Christian also won't be there, but defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge will be in attendance.
Key witnesses that could still testify include Micah Fletcher who was stabbed on the train by Christian and survived. Also, Demetria Hester could testify. Prosecutors say she was assaulted by Christian on a Portland light rail train on May 25, 2017, the day before the stabbings.
After the state rests its case, Christian's defense team will call witnesses of their own. So far, they've argued Christian was acting in self-defense.
The trial itself is expected to last a month, through the end of February.
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