Community honors bravery of stabbing victims

Top Stories: 11 p.m. 5-27-17

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Following brutal stabbings on a MAX train that left two men dead and another injured on Friday, the Portland community came together Saturday night to honor their bravery.

A vigil at the Hollywood Transit Center, where the stabbings occurred, brought out hundreds of people, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

They spoke of the courage of the three victims, who on Saturday were identified as 53-year-old Ricky John Best, of Happy Valley, 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, of Southeast Portland, and 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher of Southeast Portland. Best and Meche were killed in the stabbing. Fletcher was released from the hospital Monday.

A number of Meche's family members spoke at the vigil. His sister described him as a loving and compassionate person.

"He worked for an environmental consulting agency as a career, just bought a house, had a girlfriend, wanted to get married and have babies," she said.

Earlier in the day, a woman who identified herself as Best's mother didn't want to be on camera, but said he was a dedicated dad, had been in the military, and didn't stand for people picking on others. 

"It hurts to know that somebody would harm somebody that positive," said Mandela Cordeta, who has known Fletcher for more than 10 years.

At the vigil, some people had messages to parents.

"Your son was amazing because he saved the lives of probably two Muslim women," said a woman wearing a hijab.

Some of the speakers directed pointed questions at the crowd. One man simply asked, "What would you do?"

Whatever their purpose for coming, all the people with their candles, compassion and caring, showed how Portland comes together in times of tragedy.

GoFundMe page for families of the victims

The stabbings occurred at around 4:30 p.m. Friday, when the train was at the Hollywood Transit Center near Northeast 42nd Avenue and Halsey Street. The station was then closed for most of the night.

The suspect was taken into custody shortly afterward. He has been identified as 35-year-old Jeremy Christian, of North Portland. He was booked on charges of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and felony possession of a restricted weapon. He will appear in court Tuesday.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said Christian was yelling hate speech on the train. While Simpson said the rants weren't exclusively anti-Muslim, he said at some point Christian began directing his speech at two younger women who were believed to be Muslim. Witnesses said one was wearing a hijab. 

"[The suspect] was just cursing, cursing, cursing, and so the passengers were getting nervous so the girls moved to our area," said Arsenia Brittell, who was seated behind the driver of the train. "He was saying something about America, 'This a free country, I can do whatever I want,' and other people said, 'Calm down.'"

Watch: Police give description of attack

While Christian was yelling, other passengers tried to de-escalate the situation. That's when Christian attacked three of the people who intervened, Simpson said.

"They were attacked viciously," said Simpson.

Brittell said the suspect slashed the throats of the victims.

"I saw the guy stabbed in the neck and bleeding."

Another witness, Marcus Knipe, said he helped one of the victims who was bleeding from the neck.

"He ran onto the platform. He had been slashed in the neck, but not severe wounds. But still pretty traumatic," said Knipe. "I got him to calm down, sit down, relax so he wouldn't bleed out. Someone threw me a cloth to on his neck, 'Hold compression and wait for the paramedics, keep him calm.' I happened to be in the right place at the right time."

Christian then ran from the train into a nearby neighborhood, where police took him into custody. Simpson said it's not yet known what prompted Christian's behavior.

Police have not spoken to the women who were the focus of his tirade, who left the scene following the chaos of the stabbings.

Anyone with information about the stabbings is asked to call Portland police.

In the hours after the attack, an impromptu memorial was set up at the Hollywood Transit Center for the victims.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was aboard a plane to London during the attack, issued a statement Saturday morning that read, in part:

"Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn't know against hatred. Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes."

Read: Mayor Wheeler's full statement

Wheeler arrived back in Portland Saturday afternoon and reinforced his message of community.

"We can never tolerate violence," he said. "We have to come together and love one another."

Second stabbing at TriMet station in two weeks

The Friday before the attack, a young woman was stabbed by a stranger at a TriMet MAX platform along Northeast 11th Avenue near Holladay Street. Police have not identified a motive for that attack. The woman is expected to survive.

"We'll be working with TriMet and the respective agencies of transit police as well as the precincts to get people out and about, because people need to feel safe," Simpson said.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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