Two men were murdered last Friday and one was seriously injured after they intervened on a train in Portland to stop a man who was shouting anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche died after being stabbed, while the third victim, Micah Fletcher, remains in the hospital, CNN reports. The attacker, Jeremy Joseph Christian, is due to appear in court Tuesday.
According to The New York Times, the attack occurred in a train car on the MAX light-rail system in the afternoon. Evelin Hernandez, a train passenger, told KATU-TV that Christian began shouting that Muslims were “criminals” after the two young girls boarded the train. “He said, ‘Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here,” Hernandez added.
Destinee Mangum, who was one of the young girls that Christian directed anti-Muslim slurs to, told CNN affiliate KPTV that Christian told the girls to “go back to Saudi Arabia” and that they “shouldn't be here, to get out of his country.” “He was just telling us that we basically weren't anything and that we should just kill ourselves,” Mangum added.
According to CNN, it was then that a stranger intervened, reportedly telling Christian that he “can't disrespect these young ladies like that.”
Mangum told KPTV that Christian and the men that intervened began to argue, when Christian ultimately pulled out a knife and attacked the men. "It was just blood everywhere and we just started running for our lives," Mangum said.
According to the Times, Christian fled but was soon arrested after the attack.
The attacker has a history of making extreme statements online, the Times reports. Mike Bivins, a freelance reporter in Oregon, told the Times that he saw Christian at a free-speech march last month, where he recorded Christian shouting racial slurs and threatening remarks about Muslims, Jews and “fake Christians.”
Christian was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder, CNN reports. In addition, the police said that Christian was also charged with “two counts of second-degree intimidation and a count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.” The FBI has now joined the Portland police to investigate the attack, and will determine if Christian is ultimately charged with federal hate crimes as well.
President Trump weighed in on the attack on Monday, tweeting, "The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them." The tweet came from the official @POTUS Twitter account, not the @realDonaldTrump account, where most of his inflammatory Tweets are posted.
Mangum told KPTV, "I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me. Because they didn't even know me and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look."
Victim Ricky Best was a 53-year-old army veteran who worked as a technician for the city of Portland and was remembered as a "model public servant," according to CNN. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, had graduated from Reed College in 2016 and worked at an environmental consulting agency. In a Facebook post, his sister wrote, "I am so proud to be able to call someone so brave and strong my big brother."
May the three brave men who defended the two girls on the train always be remembered for standing up to hate.