PORTLAND, Ore. -- A woman says Portland police could have prevented fatal stabbings aboard a light-rail train if they had taken her earlier complaint against Jeremy Christian more seriously.
Demetria Hester spoke out for the first time Friday, saying Christian threw a bottle at her on May 25 - causing her to bleed - after she complained about his on-train rant against blacks, Jews and others that lasted through three stops.
He called her out individually and when she stepped off the train, he threw a soda bottle, hitting her by the eye, Hester said. She then pepper-sprayed Christian.
Transit police let him get away after he rinsed his face in a fountain, she said.
Christian has been in jail since May 26, when police say he stabbed three passengers - two fatally - after going into an anti-Muslim tirade. Four other charges in Christian's indictment stem from the confrontation with Hester. He has pleaded not guilty.
"I can't describe the feeling that I felt," Hester said today, flanked by supporters. "Disappointment, frustration irritation. I mean just every emotion you could think that came when I saw that he actually did what I told police he would do if they did not catch him. So it was beyond disturbing."
Woman confronted by Jeremy Christian speaks out
A woman who told police she was taunted by Jeremy Christian the day before he allegedly stabbed three men on a MAX train is speaking out, with support from church and community leaders. Here's the story from OregonLive: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/08/woman_who_says_she_was_assault.htmlPosted by KGW-TV on Friday, August 18, 2017
Police responded Friday that Hester did not identify Christian, who had been by a fountain, as the bottle thrower until after he started walking away.
In the prepared statement, police said Hester was with transit supervisors when a lone police officer arrived. As Christian left, the officer started going to a patrol car after calling for backup. Christian disappeared even though the two officers did search for a time.
Because the case remains open, the bureau said it could not release reports of the incident and instead released their version of events through this narrative:
The Portland Police Bureau is aware of questions in the community regarding the response to an assault investigation on May 25, 2017, that occurred on a MAX platform. This assault investigation involved Jeremy Christian, the suspect indicted for the deaths of two men and the injuries to another man on a MAX train the following day.
Because both of these cases are pending, the Police Bureau cannot release reports, but can outline what occurred:
On May 25, 2017, at 11:36 p.m., and officer was dispatched on a priority call to the Rose Quarter Transit Station, regarding a disturbance between a male and female. No other officers or Transit Police were in the area.
Upon arrival, the officer contacted individuals standing at the platform and asked if they had been involved in a disturbance. No one indicated they were involved. The group included Jeremy Christian, but at the time, the officer had no information to know he was the suspect. The officer then contacted the victim who was standing with two TriMet supervisors who had called for medical to come to the scene. A witness was also standing with the victim.
The officer began to interview the victim and witness, who stated the suspect had thrown a plastic Gatorade bottle at the victim, causing injuries in the eye area.
The witness pointed to a man standing near the fountain (who was identified as Jeremy Christian the following day), and said it was the man who had thrown the bottle. The suspect did not appear to be concerned police were there was not trying to leave the scene.
The officer asked the victim twice to confirm that Christian was the man who had assaulted her. The victim told the officer Christian was not the suspect both times. During traumatic incidents such as this, officers often interview people who need more time to process the information.
At this time, the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Christian. Meanwhile, the suspect began casually walking away, and then the victim identified him as the man who had thrown the bottle at her.
The officer was working alone and no cover officers were readily available. The officer decided to follow the suspect in his patrol car until a cover officer arrived. Officers are trained to wait for a cover officer prior to contacting a potentially violent suspect, to ensure the safety of all involved. Unfortunately, the suspect left the area, as the officer was starting to follow him. When a cover officer arrived, both officers searched the area, but did not locate Christian.
The officer then returned to the location to continue to interview the victim and document what occurred. She told him about what had happened between her and the suspect on the Max train and what subsequently led to the assault on the platform. The officer took photos of the victim's injuries and then TriMet provided a ride home for her. The officer then recovered the bottle, photographed it as well and logged it into the property room.
The officer notified his supervisor of the incident and contacted TriMet to pull the video from the train so it could be logged as evidence. The officer also searched YouTube just in case there were any videos posted from people on the train or platform, but he did not locate any.
On the next day, May 26, 2017, the officer saw news reports and recognized the suspect from the May 25th assault as Jeremy Christian. He notified supervisors on the scene of the homicide about the incident on May 25, 2017.
"The Police Bureau understands the emotion and fear of hatred that has occurred in our community," said Acting Chief Chris Uehara. "We will continue to lift up, support and protect all community members."
Watch: Police explains response