Portland attack: Police probe 'hate speech rant' of double murder suspect

Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, to appear in court on Tuesday

Gillian Flaccus
Saturday 27 May 2017 23:35
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Police at the scene of the triple stabbing in northeast Portland
Police at the scene of the triple stabbing in northeast Portland

Police say they will examine what appears to be the extremist ideology of an Oregon man suspected 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 Saturday 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 was not immediately clear if he had an attorney. A phone at his home in Portland rang unanswered early Saturday.

Police on Saturday identified the victims as 53-year-old Ricky John Best of Happy Valley, Oregon, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche of Portland. Mr Best died at the scene, and Mr Meche died at hospital, police said.

Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of Portland, was also stabbed in the attack and is in serious condition at a Portland hospital, police said. 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. Their names have not been released.

The assailant on the train was ranting on many topics, using “hate speech or biased language,” according to a statement from police.

Friday was the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims, and the attack prompted soul-searching in Portland, a city that prides itself on its tolerance and liberal views. A memorial of flowers and signs quickly grew at the scene by a transit station.

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

Wheeler was on the inaugural direct flight from the Oregon city to London when the attack occurred. He said he boarded the first flight back and was due to arrive Saturday afternoon.

Dyjuana Hudson, a mother of one of the girls, told The Oregonian that a 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.

The attack happened on a MAX train as it headed east. A train remained stopped on the tracks at a transit centre that was closed while police investigated.

Police say the victims were trying to stop Christian from confronting the girls.

“In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behaviour and some of the people that he was yelling at,” police Sgt. Pete Simpson told the Portland newspaper. “They were attacked viciously.”

Neighbours who live next to Mr Christian's parents' house — which was also his last listed address in court records — said the family was quiet and they often saw Christian's two adult brothers but never him.

AP

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