UPDATE (Jan. 29, 5:43 p.m. PT) — Multnomah County prosecutors continued their case Wednesday in the trial of Jeremy Christian, the man charged with killing two people and stabbing a third on a light rail train in Portland more than two and half years ago.
The state’s first witness of the day was Marcus Knipe, an Army veteran who now works at the Department of Veteran Affairs. He was standing with his family on the Hollywood MAX station platform on May 26, 2017, when a Green Line train pulled up to the platform.
“I heard screaming before the train doors opened,” Knipe testified. “When the doors opened there was even more screaming. People were rushing off the MAX train, up the stairs to leave the area. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees asked Knipe what he saw.
“The victim Micah Fletcher came stumbling out of the train,” Knipe said. “When him and I locked eyes, we came towards each other. I helped him to to the ground, I put my hand on his neck to put pressure.”
Fletcher survived the stabbing that day, but two other men — Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Ricky Best, 53 — died from knife wounds inflicted by Christian. Christian is facing a dozen charges in the case, including murder.
Knipe used a child’s jacket and a baby blanket to try to stop Fletcher’s bleeding. Prosecutors showed jurors an image from a security camera, with Knipe holding what appeared to be a pink blanket. Fletcher’s eyes are open wide.
Knipe said he saw Christian throw his shoulder into an African American man who was wearing a Marine Corps cap.
“‘Do you want some too?’” Knipe recalled Christian saying to the man. “‘I’ll cut you also.’”
Prosecutors also called Morgan Noonan, who was on the train during the attack.
“There was a lot of yelling,” Noonan said. “Mostly racist comments mixed with political statements, things you would say if you wanted to provoke a response.”
Noonan said he remembered hearing Christian say slurs against black people and gays and lesbians and talk of beheading Muslims.
Christian, who was seated between his two attorneys, appeared to smirk and shook his head.
Noonan testified he saw Christian stab Best and Namkai-Meche. He then testified Christian left the train, but confronted the same African American man wearing a Marine Corps cap that Knipe testified he saw.
After Christian left the scene, Noonan helped provide medical aid, Noonan said.
“I looked over at Ricky,” Noonan said. “He was gasping for air forcefully. And Tilly [Taliesin] was in shock.”
Noonan said, even then, Best didn’t seem like he was going to survive.
“He was expiring, rapidly, very fast,” Noonan testified. “Waves of his blood were running down the aisle towards me … I knew every time his heart beat he was bleeding to death.”
During cross examination, defense attorney Greg Scholl asked Noonan about his client, Christian.
“He didn’t strike you as a rational person did he?” Scholl asked.
“I’m not a psychologist,” Noonan said. “I wouldn’t be able to answer that question accurately.”
“Do you remember telling a detective Mr. Christian wasn’t rational in any way?” Scholl replied.
“I may have said that at some point,” Noonan responded. “But again I’m not a psychologist, so I could be misspeaking.”
Next, prosecutors called Amy Farrara to the stand. Farrara worked downtown at the time of the stabbings. She was taking the MAX Green Line home with her sister-in-law, Jessica Krohn, who also testified Wednesday.
Farrara and Krohn sat in the back of the train, they said.
Farrara captured a short video that was shown to the court. It captured some of Christian’s yelling before the stabbing.
“I stopped recording because I sunk down in the seat because I thought a gun was going to go off,” she said. “I thought something was going to escalate.”
Krohn said she did the same.
“It got to that point where you could just feel it in the air, so to speak, that something was about to happen,” Krohn said. “I expected a gun to come out from somebody.”
Farrara and Krohn said they couldn’t see much from the back of the train, but they thought people were fist fighting.
“I thought that they were punching and fighting and I noticed liquid on the side, the wall of the train,” Farrara said. “I second-guessed, why is there water on the train? Somebody’s water bottle? Then I realized it was blood.”
She continued: “It was like it was dripping or raining. It was a shocking thing to realize it was blood.”
Krohn said she and Farrara had to step over Best, one of the victims, to exit the train.
“We wanted to get off the train, so we had to step over him to get off,” Krohn said tearfully. “Everybody was running off the train and I just wanted to get out.”
The state next called Jason Young, a transit police officer who responded to the call on May 26, 2017.
He said when he heard about the call, it was reported as someone yelling and swearing on the MAX.
Young and his partner were two of the first transit police officers on the scene.
“We got out of the car and basically just ran,” Young said. “When I was going down to the platform, that’s when I started hearing people yelling and screaming.”
He attempted to give aid to one of the victims, Namkai-Meche. Young grabbed Namkai-Meche’s wallet out of his pocket.
“The way he was rolling around; I assumed he was going through a lot of pain,” Young said. “I just wanted to be able to call him by name.”
After the afternoon lunch break, the prosecution called Analuisa Rivera as its next witness. Rivera, who speaks Spanish and was accompanied by a translator, was also on the MAX train on May 26.
She took a video of the stabbings, which was shown to the jury and the courtroom, causing many people on the victims’ side of the room to turn their eyes to the floor or break into tears.
In the video, Rivera prays in Spanish. She cried on the stand as the video played.
One of Christian’s defense attorneys, Dean Smith, showed her a security camera image of herself on the MAX, smiling and seemingly laughing. Rivera confirmed it was her.
Deputy district attorney Jeff Howes asked Rivera why she was smiling in the photo.
“I don’t recall that, but whenever I rode the MAX I would put in my headphones and I would put videos on from my Facebook, or I would FaceTime with my sisters or my family,” Rivera said through the translator.
Howes asked Rivera if she was frightened on the MAX at anytime during Christian’s yelling. She said she was because Christian was saying “discriminatory things.”
“Why does that affect you?” Howes asked.
“Because I’m a woman of color. I’m Mexican,” Rivera responded through her translator.
The next witness, Amee Pacheco, recalled Christian’s loud yelling. She sat briefly next to Christian on the train.
“He asked if we wanted to know his plan for world peace,” Pacheco said.
Christian, seated next to his attorneys, nodded his head at that.
“He said, ‘you get 1 million Christians to kill 1 million Muslims, and all the Jews will kill themselves,’” Pacheco said.
She said she and other riders were telling Christian to “shut up.”
“I had assumed that he was drunk, but he wasn’t slurring,” Pacheco said. “He was loud and obnoxious and belligerent, but he was also, there was a part of him too that did seem like he still had some control over what he was doing.”
Pacheco also recalled what she saw of the altercation between Christian and Namkai-Meche; Christian has been accused of knocking the cellphone out of Namkai-Meche’s hand.
After that happened, Pacheco said Christian was the aggressor and that he shoved Namkai-Meche first. This recollection could be crucial for the prosecution; one of the defense’s main arguments is that Christian was defending himself.
Pacheco said she did not recall seeing the two young black women on the train that Christian is accused of targeting, so she could not speak specifically to what they were doing at the time or if Christian was paying them any attention.
Smith, the defense lawyer, asked Pacheco if she recalled Christian ever saying anything about gay people, black people or Nazis. She said she didn’t.
Smith also asked Pacheco if in Christian’s rant he identified any single person on the train. She said she didn’t recall.
At the end of the day Wednesday, Shawn Forde testified – a 6-foot-4, black former Marine originally from Brooklyn. One of Christian’s charges in the trial is menacing against Forde.
Some witnesses have said Christian threatened Forde with his knife as he exited the train after the stabbings, something Forde confirms.
Forde said Christian’s yelling about Muslims was directed at two black teenage girls, Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum.
This could also be a crucial point to the prosecution, as the defense — in attempts to dispute intimidation or hate crime charges against Christian — has said that Christian’s ranting was not pointed at any certain person.
“I looked at the young ladies … and their entire demeanor changed,” Forde said, when he says Christian was talking about beheadings. “I didn’t think it was directed at them, but when I looked over at the defendant, he was looking right at them.”
Forde said he moved in front of Christian, trying to distract him from the two girls.
“You could tell by their reaction that they were totally, totally out of their sorts. They were scared,” Forde said. “So I just wanted him to focus on me. I didn’t want him to focus on them anymore.”
As Christian’s yelling began to get louder, Forde said he pressed one of the help buttons on the train “maybe 20 times.”
After the stabbing, as he exited the train, Forde said Christian was yelling “Anybody else want some?” while brandishing his knife on the MAX platform.
Screenshots from the MAX’s security camera, shown to the jury and courtroom, showed Forde moving away from Christian on the platform.
Unlike other witnesses had previously testified, Forde said Christian did not slam into him on the MAX platform. He said Christian only pointed his knife at him.
Forde also said that he does not remember Christian ever using the n-word on the train; another witness Wednesday said Christian had used the racial slur in his ranting.
After everything had happened, Forde said he felt law enforcement took a long time to respond.
“It was a long time. It was probably, maybe a half hour, 45 minutes,” he said. “It felt like an hour.”
The trial of Jeremy Christian continues Thursday.