x
Breaking News
More () »

Portland's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Portland, Oregon | KGW.com

Brutal details released in MAX stabbing attack, 3 young witnesses take the stand

After Christian was arrested following the attack, prosecutors say he told police, "That's right, this is a hate crime. I hope they all die, I'm a patriot."

PORTLAND, Ore. — Warning: The following article contains graphic language and depictions of brutal violence pertaining to the MAX train attack that may be troubling to readers.

The murder trial of Jeremy Christian began Tuesday morning in Portland with graphic opening statements by the prosecution, painting a picture of a brutal — and unexpected — attack on three men aboard public transportation.

Christian's defense team argued the self-professed white supremacist was defending himself that day on the train because he was being assaulted.

And in the afternoon, three young black women, who were on the train that day, delivered emotional testimony about how the attack affected them.

“I ran for my life because I didn’t know who he was going to come for next,” witness Zhada Allen testified..

Full coverage of the Jeremy Christian trial

Christian is accused of boarding a crowded MAX train in May 2017 and aiming a racist, hate-filled rant at two black teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. He's then accused of stabbing three men who intervened or stood nearby.

Two of the men, Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, died. The third, Micah Fletcher, was gravely wounded but survived.

Day One of the trial started with Judge Cheryl Albrecht giving the jury — 12 jurors and two alternates — directions on how the trial will unfold and what their roles are. Fletcher and the families of Best and Namkai-Meche were in attendance.

When Christian first walked into the courtroom Tuesday, he announced, "Are you guys ready to smash Portland's fairy tale?"

The judge asked him again whether he wanted to wear his inmate garb during the trial or change into street clothes. He has chosen to wear his inmate garb.

"As I said, I don't care as long as everyone finds out the truth," Christian told the judge.

RELATED: Who is Jeremy Christian?

Prosecutor portrays Christian as the aggressor

Prosecutor Don Rees presented opening statements, starting with the events the night before the brutal attacks. Christian boarded a MAX train right before midnight on May 25, 2017, where he sat behind Demetria Hester, a black woman riding home from work. Christian went on a loud rant, yelling about blacks, Jews and Muslims, and stated he was a Nazi, according to the prosecution.

Hester tried to knock on the train operator's door to get help, but no one answered. Christian told Hester, "F*** you, b****, I'll rape and kill you."

When help was finally called and the train arrived at Rose Quarter Transit Center, two supervisors were waiting. When both Christian and Hester got off the train, Christian yelled, "I'll hit a b***** and next time, I’m going to f****** kill you." In response, Hester sprayed Christian with pepper spray, and he threw a half-full Gatorade bottle filled with Sangria at Hester's face.

Christian then left the area by getting on another MAX train, slipping away from authorities.

RELATED: Jury selection, defense strategy: What to expect during the Jeremy Christian trial

The next day, two black teen girls, Destinee Mangum and Walio Mohamed, boarded a Green Line MAX train to go shopping. As that train passed through the Lloyd Center, Christian boarded, carrying a backpack. Inside of it, Christian was carrying three books: The Book of Mormon, a book about Vikings and a science fiction novel. He also carried a 4-inch knife inside the pockets of his shorts.

Surveillance video from the train shows Christian chugging Sangria out of a plastic bag, then taking out the Book of Mormon above his head and going on a rant.

At this point, Magnum and Mohamed were sitting about 12 feet from Christian, when the prosecution says he went on another religious and race-related rant.

The girls then got up, and stood behind a large man standing nearby, who has been identified as Shawn Forde. Forde pressed a "help" button inside the train, but no one responded.

Forde and other passengers started yelling at Christian to leave the train.

Namkai-Meche was on the phone at that point with his aunt, who heard Christian's yelling. The aunt told Namkai-Meche he should hang up the phone and record what she thought sounded like an act of hate crime.

Namkai-Meche held up his phone to start recording what was happening, which prosecutors say set Christian off. Fletcher thought Christian was about to assault Namkai-Meche, which is when he stepped in. Fletcher realized he had seen Christian at a political rally several weeks prior. Christian shoved Fletcher, then took out his knife with his other hand. Prosecutors say Christian then shoved Namkai-Meche, and Fletcher grabbed Christian by his shirtband and told him to get off the train.

Christian stumbled, then switched the knife to his right hand, as he was face-to-face with Fletcher. Fletcher shoved Christian again, then Christian told him, "Hit me again, hit me again," and then took out his knife and stabbed Fletcher in the neck, according to prosecutors.

Witnesses, unaware of what had just happened, thought Christian had just punched Fletcher, until Christian went on to stab Namkai-Meche in the neck, hitting a jugular vein, according to prosecutors.

Ricky Best, prosecutors say, had been standing behind Namkai-Meche during this argument and didn't appear to be involved. Christian then stabbed Best in the back of the neck, just below his skull, severing his arteries and killing him.

Christian continued stabbing Best, and stabbed Namkai-Meche several more times, despite the fact that both men were severely wounded by then.

Best was pronounced dead. Namkai-Meche was hospitalized, but pronounced dead quickly after.

Christian fled the train with his knife, and was able to walk about a mile before he was arrested by police.

According to prosecutors, Christian then went on the following rant.

"I hope those mother f***** die especially that mother f***** with his punk-ass Deadpool shirt [Micah Fletcher]. That's right, this is a hate crime. I hope they all die, I'm a patriot. I hope everyone I stabbed dies. You guys are gonna have nightmares wondering why I stabbed people in the neck because I'm a patriot."

Christian then said both of those people would have been alive if they kept hands to themselves and "allowed me to have free speech. It's only because they decided to get violent with me that they signed their own death warrant and I don't feel one bit remorseful or sorry about that."

Defense argues Christian acted in self-defense

Dean Smith, Christian's defense attorney, began his opening statement after a brief recess, stating they share the same timeline as the prosecutors and that they're "not disputing any of the videos of evidence" that will be presented. Their argument appears to center around Fletcher's reaction to Christian's rant, and what they appear to be implying was Christian's "reasonable" response to respond to a physical assault.

They took the opportunity to show what they call "a difference of reactions" between Fletcher and veteran Shawn Forde to Christian's rant. They said Fletcher showed signs of "confrontation," while Forde was more laid back, and said people shouldn't engage with Christian or fight him, but he had a right to his free speech. Forde then went on to press the help button, without any response from the operator.

Smith said Fletcher's actions in shoving Christian back several times and standing over him with his fists clenched shows Fletcher was in fact the assaulter, and claimed Fletcher's actions constitute a felony assault.

"No matter how much [Christian] aggravated people, he had the right to stay on that train, just like everyone else, even if their speech didn't require free speech protection," Smith said.

Smith said Christian's use of the knife was in self-defense after being physically assaulted by Fletcher.

According to Oregon law, you are justified to use physical force against another person if you think that individual is "committing or attempting to commit a felony" using physical force against you.

Prior to the physical fight, Smith said one of the teenage girls who said she felt threatened by Christian, recorded what appeared to be a Snapchat video of Christian ranting, using a "rolling eyes" emoji. The defense attorney added, "these emojis are not reflective of [the teens] feeling threatened." 

Smith then pulled several still images from surveillance that show Namkai-Meche smiling on the train, which Smith said are again, not reflective of someone feeling threatened.

Credit: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian/OregonLive/Pool
Opening arguments began Tuesday on the first day of the Jeremy Christian trial at Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. January 28, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

Smith said the intimidation charge Christian is facing regarding the teen girls requires the state to prove the girls believed Christian was going to hurt them. The defense showed a minute-by-minute timeline of moments Christian was ranting, during which he looked in the direction of the girls for 31 total seconds.

Surveillance photos showed the girls moved away from Christian four minutes before the stabbings.

After a lunch break, the defense continued their opening statements by playing a two-minute audio recording of Christian's rant aboard the train prior to the attacks, during which you could hear one of the witnesses, Forde, telling everyone on the train Christian was "all over the place."

Then they played a two-minute video of Christian attending a free speech rally in April 2017, about a month prior to the attacks, wrapped up in a Bennington American flag, with an aim to "piss people off" on both sides. This is the same rally Fletcher attended.

In a video the defense played, Christian was seen saying to police, "I'm here to support free speech."

Smith went on to define what an anti-fascist is, and what the group more commonly known as Antifa, had planned to do in response to that same free speech rally. The group encouraged attendees to wear clown costumes and bring noise-makers, and limit certain kinds of free speech with those efforts, according to Christian's defense team.

First witness called

Credit: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian/OregonLive/Pool
Day one of the Jeremy Christian trial at Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. January 28, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

The first witness was called by the state shortly after the defense finished their opening arguments.

Zhada Allen, who was 14 or 15 at the time of the attack, took the stand Tuesday afternoon. She was on the train that day, and said she feared for her life when Christian began ranting about race and religion.

She took six brief videos of what happened on the train that day. The videos were played out in court. They showed Christian, Fletcher and Namkai-Meche chest to chest before the stabbing, then showed Fletcher shoving Christian into a row of seats. The video also showed the moment Christian slashed Fletcher’s throat, and panic erupted on the train.

Allen, who held back tears as she testified, said not a day has gone by that she hasn’t thought about what happened on the train that day. Though she didn’t know Destinee Magnum and Walia Mohamed at the time, the girls paired up after the stabbing began and ran out of the train.

“I ran for my life because i didn’t know who he was going to come for next,” Allen said.

The defense did not question Allen. 

Walio Mohamed takes the stand

Credit: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian/Pool
Walia Mohamed testifies during day one of the Jeremy Christian trial at Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. January 28, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

The next witness the state called was one of those two girls who police say Christian targeted initially that day, Walio Mohamed.

Mohamed, who is now 20 years old and a new mom, said she was with her best friend Destinee that day on the way to the mall when the girls realized they were going in wrong direction. They got off the train downtown, then boarded a Green Line train headed east.

Mohamed, who was wearing a hijab at the time, said Christian was yelling racial slurs loudly and aggressively. Mohamed recalled Christian yelled, “F*** Muslims, go back to Saudi Arabia,” and “go kill yourself.”

She said she and Destinee moved to the back of the MAX because they were scared.

“He was just bigger than us, we just didn’t know what to do. We were just two girls so we just decided to move,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed said she noticed the situation escalate, but didn’t realize Christian had a knife, until she saw Namkai-Meche bleeding from the neck. Since the attack, Mohamed said she has experienced PTSD, and said she stopped wearing her hijab several weeks after the attack.

“We are hated,” she said of her Muslim religion and added her PTSD, “is like re-living [what happened on the train] every day.”

Destinee Mangum testifies

Credit: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian/Pool
Destinee Mangum testifies during day one of the Jeremy Christian trial at Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. January 28, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

Destinee Mangum, now 18 years old, was traveling with her friend Mohamed that day, and took the stand Tuesday afternoon.  

She, like Mohamed, said she was scared for her life after hearing Christian’s rant. She recorded portions of it, as well as the moment the stabbing happened.

The video was played in court, and Mangum could be heard screaming the whole time. You could hear Mangum screaming, “I want to go home” in the moments before the stabbing and screaming and crying even more when she saw Namkai-Meche being stabbed. 

In direct relation to Christian’s “self-defense” argument pitched by his lawyers earlier in the day, Mangum was asked if it looked like Christian was defending himself.

“No … [Christian] wanted an altercation,” Mangum said.