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Update On Oregon Train Stabbings

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Update On Oregon Train Stabbings

Update On Oregon Train Stabbings

Update On Oregon Train Stabbings

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Two men were killed as they intervened to help women targeted by a man delivering an anti-Muslim rant. Molly Solomon of Oregon Public Broadcasting tells us the status of the investigation.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Portland on Friday, two men were stabbed to death on a light rail train. According to witnesses, they were intervening to help two women being targeted by an anti-Muslim rant by an aggressive passenger. Their deaths are being mourned this weekend, and police are investigating the background of Jeremy Joseph Christian, the 35-year-old accused of the two men's killing. For the latest on this, we have Molly Solomon of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Molly, what do we know about the events that unfolded on Friday?

MOLLY SOLOMON, BYLINE: Sure. You know, it happened Friday afternoon on a train during rush hour in Portland's southeast neighborhood. Witnesses that were on the train, they're telling police that a man was threatening two teenage girls. One of them is Muslim. The other woman is black. The suspect we now know is Jeremy Christian. He reportedly was yelling racial slurs at these women, and some bystanders on the train, they got up to intervene. Christian then pulled out a knife, and he killed two men on the scene, stabbing a third who is currently in serious condition at the hospital. We did get an update from authorities on the case. Portland police are the lead investigating this, and they're working with the FBI on this right now. But so far, they say it's too soon to label this an act of domestic terrorism. Right now, they're just continuing to investigate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. We've heard that Jeremy Joseph Christian had expressed support for Nazis and political violence in the past on social media. What do we know about him at this point?

SOLOMON: You know, we're still learning a lot about him, but he's 35, like you said. There are a lot of views expressed on his social media. A lot of his posts are fueled with anti-Muslim rants, anti-Semitic rhetoric. I actually encountered him first at a march just a couple weeks ago. It was a march for free speech that had a lot of Trump supporters and counter-protests that were marching down a street in Portland. He was seen wearing an American flag as a cape and was basically being very disruptive throughout the whole march, using the N-word several times and extending his arm in a hail Hitler salute. He does have a history of arrests with the Portland police. They plan to arraign him in court on Tuesday, but they haven't mentioned whether or not they believe he is a white supremacist or is a known white supremacist among Portland police authorities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what do we know about the two men who in the accounts we've heard were just trying to be good Samaritans and who were killed because of that?

SOLOMON: Yes. The two men who were killed, they were identified by the police yesterday. One of them is 53-year-old Rick Best. He's a 20-year U.S. Army veteran, city of Portland employee. There's also a younger man who died, 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche. He actually just recently graduated from Reed College in Portland and was just starting his career in economics. Micah David-Cole Fletcher - he is also a Portland State student. He was stabbed during the attack but is expected to survive. And I went ahead and went to one vigil yesterday that was held for the victims, and it was very emotional. There were families there - they were people that knew these men - friends that were remembering them, just community members, people that lived nearby the train station had come by to either bring flowers, light candles, say a couple words. And I think the community was just trying to come together to heal after this really tragic event.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Molly Solomon of Oregon Public Broadcasting, thanks so much.

SOLOMON: Thank you.

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White Supremacist Charged With Killing 2 In Portland, Ore., Knife Attack

A heart-shaped wreath covered with positive messages hangs on a traffic light pole Saturday at a memorial for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore. Gillian Flaccus/AP hide caption

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Gillian Flaccus/AP

A heart-shaped wreath covered with positive messages hangs on a traffic light pole Saturday at a memorial for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore.

Gillian Flaccus/AP

Two people are dead and one was injured after a stabbing on a train in Portland, Ore., on Friday afternoon.

Police say the disturbance began when a man on a light-rail train "began yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions." Among the subjects of his diatribe were two young women who appeared to be Muslim; one was wearing a hijab.

Portland police have charged Jeremy Joseph Christian with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Portland Police Bureau hide caption

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Portland Police Bureau

"In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at," Sgt. Pete Simpson told The Oregonian. "They were attacked viciously."

The suspect stabbed three men before fleeing the train; police located him and took him into custody.

On Saturday afternoon, police identified the two men killed as Ricky John Best, age 53, who died at the scene; and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, who died at the hospital.

A third man, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is injured but expected to survive.

Namkai Meche's mother, Asha Deliverance, wrote a tribute to her son on her Facebook page Saturday morning:

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland. He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.

Police identified the suspect as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian of North Portland. He has been booked on two counts each of aggravated murder and intimidation in the second degree, and one count each of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

Police Sgt. Pete Simpson describes the attack on a Portland train on Friday.

The Oregonian YouTube

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Simpson said that, though the attack happened just before the start of Ramadan, police weren't yet sure the attack was "religiously motivated."

"According to some preliminary witness statements, he was kind of spewing hate about a lot of different things," said Simpson. "So not specifically and exclusively anti-Muslim. ... So that's why it's hard to say at this point was he directing it at any one person, or was it just kind of in general to everyone around him."

"We don't know if he's got mental health issues, we don't know if he's under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or all of the above," said Simpson. "Right now we're in the very early stages of the investigation."

Imtiaz Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Portland, told OPB that since the election, hate speech and harassment of the Muslim community have increased.

"We are very sad. Ramadan started just a couple hours ago," said Khan. "We are very sorry for the two men who tried to do the right thing."

Khan said that "of course people from the Muslim community are concerned. And unfortunately the easy targets are women because of the headscarf."

Police say they have identified and been in contact with the two women, whose identities were not released.

The Portland Mercury reports that the suspect was a "known local white supremacist." The alternative weekly published photos and video of Christian at a "March for Free Speech" on April 29, to which he brought a baseball bat. Draped in an American flag, he yelled "I'm a nihilist," and shouted profanity and racial slurs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reviewed Christian's Facebook page, and found numerous posts espousing extremist views. In a post from April 19, Christian praised the Oklahoma City bomber, writing, "May all the Gods Bless Timothy McVeigh a TRUE PATRIOT!!!"

In a February 2016 post, he wrote: "I'm sure most of you don't remember but the American Nazi Party was taking care of a stretch of highway in Oregon about 10 years ago until ODOT took down their sign. Apparently Nazis don't have the freedom to exercise their civic duties in this State. Why? Because we live in a Fascist Police State run By 'Liberal' 'Multicultural' NAZIS!!!"

In a statement released Saturday, police say they will "extensively examine" Christian's background, "including the information publicly available about the suspect's extremist ideology" in their investigation. Christian wasn't flagged as a gang member, "nor does he have any known mental health history listed," the department said.

Court records show that Christian was convicted in 2002 of robbery, kidnapping and a weapons charge, according to the AP.

Police say the state medical examiner was conducting autopsies on the victims on Saturday.

Christian will be arraigned on Tuesday and could face additional charges.