PORTLAND, Ore. — Warning: The following article contains graphic language, images and depictions of brutal violence pertaining to the MAX train attack that may be troubling to readers.
The third day of Jeremy Christian's trial began Thursday morning with more witness testimony as the prosecution presented its case.
Christian is accused of going on a hateful rant aimed at two black teen girls aboard a TriMet MAX train on May 26, 2017.
An altercation followed between Christian and two other men, Micah Fletcher and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, and quickly escalated as the three men were chest-to-chest.
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Fletcher shoved Christian twice, and Christian told him, "Hit me again, hit me again." Prosecutors say Christian then took a 4-inch knife from his shorts pocket and stabbed Fletcher, Namkai-Meche and another passenger, Ricky Best.
Best and Namkai-Meche died. Fletcher was gravely wounded, but survived. The knife barely missed a main artery that would have killed him.
The defense and state submitted their opening arguments earlier in the week. Christian's lawyers argued their client used self-defense in the attack, because he felt like he was being assaulted by Fletcher.
"I felt like I let the man down": Witnesses describe efforts to save victims' lives
The first witness who took the stand Thursday was Charles Button, who was on the MAX train that day and had tried to save Rick Best's life.
He described how traumatizing the event was, and said he was covered in blood after using a jacket to try to put pressure on Best's stab wound on his neck.
Button, nearly in tears, then said, "I know from my training that pupils dilating isn't a good sign," then reflected on the day's events adding, "I felt like I let the man down."
Portland police officer Rehanna Kerridge took the stand next. She was one of the first officers on scene, and triaged between the victims before medics arrived.
When asked if she had ever seen something like this in her career as an officer for eight years, she said, "Not to that extent, no."
She first saw other passengers helping Fletcher, and told them to keep pressure applied to his wound while she checked for other victims.
Kerridge said when she got to the train, she first saw Namkai-Meche, who was "extremely pale" and unresponsive.
"That breathing sound is something you hear when someone's about to die," Kerridge said.
At that point, she said Best was also unresponsive.
Namkai-Meche's aunt takes the stand, says nephew's last words to her were, 'I love you so much'
The next witness called by the prosecution was Beatrix Therese Van Olphen, Namkai-Meche's aunt who was on the phone with him as Christian ranted that afternoon.
Van Olphen said she could hear Christian's yelling during their conversation. She testified she told Namkai-Meche to move away from the situation so they could keep talking, and moments later suggested he should maybe get off the phone and film whatever was happening so he could turn it over to police if it constituted what she referenced as a hate crime.
"I told him, 'Don’t get involved,' and he said, 'I won't, I love you so much,'" Van Olphen testified.
It would be the last time she talked to her nephew.
The next witness, Jason Fallquist, testified he had been on the train during Christian's rant and the stabbing attack.
He said he saw Namkai-Meche clutching his throat after he was stabbed, then he "just dropped to the ground."
Train operator testifies he didn't hear ringing or see flashing light when "help" button was pushed
Jeffrey Quintana, the operator of the train, testified next. He said he heard some kind of commotion between the Lloyd Center and Hollywood Transit stops and made an announcement for passengers to keep it down, otherwise he'd call the police.
He said he called a "rail controller" after the announcement, and was told to peek out once he stopped at Hollywood Transit Center to see what was going on.
During this time, the fight between Christian, Namkai-Meche and Fletcher was escalating — and Shawn Forde, a passenger standing nearby, was repeatedly pushing a "help" button inside the train car.
Quintana testified he didn’t hear a ringing or see a flashing light, as is custom when someone presses the "help" button.
When he stepped outside of his operating car at the transit center, Quintana said a large group of people was gathering at the end of the train car.
"Someone said someone was stabbed … I immediately closed my [cab] door, locked it and called my rail controller," Quintana said.