PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police said Saturday they’ll examine what appears to be the extremist ideology of an Oregon man accused of fatally stabbing two men who tried to intervene when the suspect yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim on a Portland light-rail train.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was being held in the Multnomah County Jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He was arrested a short time after the attack on Friday.
He will make a first court appearance Tuesday, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney. A phone at his home in Portland rang unanswered Saturday, and no one came to the door at his parents’ home.
Police identified the victims as Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, of Portland. Police say Best died at the scene and that Meche died at a hospital.
Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance of Ashland, Oregon, confirmed on Facebook that her son had been killed. She did not immediately return a call to her business phone listing or a message sent through social media.
Police say Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of Portland was also stabbed in the attack and is in serious condition at a Portland hospital. Police say his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
Police have also identified the two young women on the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab at the time of the stabbing, but have not released their names.
The assailant on the train was ranting on many topics, using “hate speech or biased language,” police Sgt. Pete Simpson said.
The attack Friday happened on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims, and it sent shockwaves through a city that prides itself on its tolerance and liberal views. A memorial where the stabbing occurred grew steadily Saturday, and a vigil was planned.
“That people feel emboldened to come out and show their racism and bigotry in that way is horrifying to me. It’s a gut check for everywhere — and absolutely for Portland,” said Christopher Douglas, who stopped at the memorial. “Portland … floats in a little bit of a bubble of its own liberal comfort and I think the reality is sinking in.”
Dyjuana Hudson, a mother of one of the girls, told The Oregonian/OregonLive (http://bit.ly/2qurEGz) that the man began a racial tirade as soon as he spotted the girls. Her daughter is African-American and was with a friend who was wearing a hijab, she said.
“He was saying that Muslims should die,” Hudson said. “That they’ve been killing Christians for years.”
Court records show Christian served prison time for first-degree robbery and second-degree kidnapping after a crime committed 15 years ago, when he was 20, and theft and weapons charges were dismissed in 2010. The court documents did not say why the charges were voided.
Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned the attacks.
“There is too much hatred in our world right now, and far too much violence. Too much of it has arrived here in Portland,” he wrote on Facebook.
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