2 Ore. men killed try­ing to stop anti-Mus­lim rants

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY AMY B WANG amy.wang@wash­post.com Todd C. Frankel con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Two men were stabbed to death and one in­jured Fri­day on a ligh­trail train in Port­land, Ore., af­ter they tried to in­ter­vene when an­other pas­sen­ger be­gan “rant­ing and rav­ing” and shout­ing an­tiMus­lim hate speech at two young women, po­lice said.

Po­lice iden­ti­fied the sus­pect as Jeremy Joseph Chris­tian, 35, of North Port­land. Chris­tian is be­ing held with­out bail on two counts of ag­gra­vated mur­der, one count of at­tempted mur­der, two counts of in­tim­i­da­tion in the sec­ond de­gree and one count of pos­ses­sion of a re­stricted weapon as a felon.

The two slain men were iden­ti­fied by Port­land po­lice as Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrd­din Namkai Meche, 23.

A third vic­tim, Micah DavidCole Fletcher, 21, is be­ing treated for non-life-threat­en­ing in­juries, po­lice said.

Ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses, a white male pas­sen­ger rid­ing an east­bound MAX train early Fri­day af­ter­noon be­gan yelling what “would best be char­ac­ter­ized as hate speech to­ward a va­ri­ety of eth­nic­i­ties and re­li­gions,” po­lice said. Some of the slurs were di­rected at two fe­male pas­sen­gers, one of whom was wear­ing a hi­jab, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

“This sus­pect was on the train, and he was yelling and rant­ing and rav­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent things, in­clud­ing what we char­ac­ter­ized at hate speech or bi­ased lan­guage,” Port­land po­lice spokesman Pete Simp­son said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day evening.

At least two men tried to calm the rant­ing pas­sen­ger down, but “they were at­tacked vi­ciously by the sus­pect” when they did, Simp­son said.

Namkai Meche, of South­east Port­land, died at a hos­pi­tal, while Best, a res­i­dent of Happy Valley, Ore., was pro­nounced dead at the scene.

Simp­son said that sev­eral pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing the two young women thought to be the tar­get of the man’s anti-Mus­lim slurs, left the train af­ter the stab­bings. Simp­son said that it did not ap­pear that the sus­pect had a re­la­tion­ship with the vic­tims.

“We don’t know if [Chris­tian] has men­tal-health is­sues or was un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs or al­co­hol, or all of the above,” Simp­son said. “With this in­ci­dent, we’re ob­vi­ously in early stages of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press, the FBI and U.S. at­tor­ney for Ore­gon will work with Port­land po­lice on the case. The FBI said it’s too early to say whether the killings qual­ify as a fed­eral hate crime, but U.S. At­tor­ney Billy Wil­liams said Satur­day, “There’s a day of reck­on­ing com­ing, a day of ac­count­abil­ity,” the AP re­ported.

The at­tacks oc­curred just as Ra­madan, the Mus­lim holy month, was set to com­mence at sun­set Fri­day. Simp­son said that Port­land po­lice had al­ready reached out to Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tions, mosques and imams in the com­mu­nity to talk about ex­tra pa­trols dur­ing Ra­madan — and that those ex­tra pa­trols would con­tinue.

On Satur­day, peo­ple mourned the vic­tims and praised them as he­roes for their ac­tions. Namkai Meche’s sis­ter, Va­jra Alaya-Maitreya, emailed a state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Post on be­half of their fam­ily, say­ing her brother lived “a joy­ous and full life” with an en­thu­si­asm that was in­fec­tious.

“We lost him in a sense­less act that brought close to home the in­sid­i­ous rift of prej­u­dice and in­tol­er­ance that is too fa­mil­iar, too com­mon. He was res­o­lute in his con­duct [and] re­spect of all peo­ple,” she wrote. “In his fi­nal act of brav­ery, he held true to what he be­lieved is the way for­ward.”

The Port­land Mer­cury news­pa­per re­ported that Chris­tian was a “known right-wing ex­trem­ist and white su­prem­a­cist” who had at­tempted to as­sault pro­test­ers at lo­cal de­mon­stra­tions in the past. Video from April 29, shot by Mer­cury re­porter Doug Brown, showed Chris­tian ar­riv­ing at a “March for Free Speech” draped in an Amer­i­can flag and car­ry­ing a base­ball bat. While there, Chris­tian yelled to the crowd that he was a “ni­hilist,” shouted the n-word at peo­ple and gave Nazi salutes, Brown re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, a Face­book page they said be­longed to Chris­tian showed he held racist, white­supremacist and ex­trem­ist be­liefs. On that pro­file, the Face­book user said he sup­ported cre­at­ing a “White home­land” in the Pa­cific North­west and de­clared on April 9 that he had “just Chal­lenged Ben Ferencz (Last Liv­ing Nuremberg Per­se­cu­tor) to a De­bate in the Hague with Putin as our judge. I will de­fend the Nazis and he will de­fend the AshkeNAZIs.”

On April 19, the an­niver­sary of the 1995 bomb­ing of the Al­fred P. Mur­rah Fed­eral Build­ing in Ok­la­homa City, the user praised bomber Ti­mothy McVeigh.

“May all the Gods Bless Ti­mothy McVeigh a TRUE PA­TRIOT!!!” he wrote. McVeigh was ex­e­cuted for the 1995 bomb­ing, which killed 168 and was the dead­li­est ter­ror­ist at­tack on Amer­i­can soil be­fore Sept. 11, 2001.

Port­land po­lice con­firmed to The Post that they be­lieve the Face­book page be­longs to Chris­tian.

Chris­tian’s mother, Mary Chris­tian, told Huf­fPost that she couldn’t imag­ine why her son would be in­volved in such an in­ci­dent, “un­less he was on drugs or some­thing.”

“He’s been in prison. He’s al­ways been spout­ing anti­estab­lish­ment stuff,” she told the news site Satur­day. “But he’s a nice per­son. I just can’t imag­ine.”

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