PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two men were killed and another was injured by a man who police said was yelling anti-Muslim slurs at a woman in a hijab on the MAX.
Jail and court records show that Portland Police charged 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian with two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation and one count each of attempted aggravated murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted firearm. Christian was lodged into the Multnomah County Detention Center at 2:12 a.m. Saturday, and is expected to appear in court on Tuesday, according to jail staff.
The stabbing happened between the Lloyd Center and Hollywood Transit Station stops around 5 p.m. Friday. Witnesses told KOIN 6 News the suspect was yelling about hating Muslims and other things for several minutes before people confronted him, possibly trying to defend the young woman wearing a hijab.
“This suspect was on the train and he was yelling and ranting and raving, a lot of different things, including what would be characterized as hate speech or bias language,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said. “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 he was yelling at and they were attacked viciously by the suspect.”
Police said there were 2 young women who may be Muslim, one wearing a hijab, being harassed by the suspect. Those women left the scene but police would like to speak to them.
Witnesses said one of the victims was stabbed in the neck and passengers rushed to help.
“…They were attacked viciously” — Pete Simpson
Portland police said one man was found suffering from traumatic injuries and first responders attempted to save his life, but he died at the scene. Two other victims were taken to the hospital, where one died and the other is expected to survive.
“It’s horrific. There’s no other word to describe what happened today,” Simpson said. “For the victims, our thoughts and prayers are with their families… for the witnesses, there is no other word, it is simply awful.”
According to witnesses, the suspect said he was going to get off the MAX at the next stop and said no one should follow him.
Portland police took Christian into custody near the Providence Medical Center after he ran south into the nearby neighborhoods. Police are not sure what led the man to attack and said it’s unclear if he was intoxicated or suffering from a mental health issue. He received medical treatment before being taken into the custody of homicide detectives.
According to court records, Christian became a convicted felon in 2002 when he resolved two pending criminal case by way of a play agreement with the State.
He pled guilty on Nov. 4, 2002 to one count each of first-degree robbery and second-degree kidnapping. Christian, on the same date, also pled guilty to carrying or using a dangerous weapon.
He was sent to prison on both cases. Specific details about the cases were not immediately known.
In November 2010, Christian was accused of first-degree theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm in Multnomah County. The case was dismissed for unknown reasons on January 18, 2011.
Police are investigating the hate speech.
“Of course our thoughts are with the Muslim community as something like this happens,” Simpson said. “This only instills fear in that community.”
Simpson said before this incident, police had already reached out to Muslim community partners about extra police patrols during Ramadan and that will happen as planned. Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, starts May 26 and lasts through June 24 this year.
Simpson said these deaths are the 8th and 9th homicides in Portland this year. The victims have not yet been identified.
Speaking on behalf of Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is currently on a non-stop flight to London, City Council President Chloe Eudaly released the following statement about the stabbing:
The city of Portland has a heavy heart right now, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the deceased and injured.
This is an especially sad and disturbing incident. People lost their lives or were injured because they stood up to hate.
We need to offer our heartfelt support to the two women and others who were targeted. The courage of the people who stood up for them is a reminder that we as a city need to stand together to denounce hate.
Thank you to the courageous witnesses who helped police locate the suspect before more people were hurt; thank you to the first responders and medical personnel who arrived quickly to administer aid; and thank you to the police for apprehending the suspect.
These are troubling times across our city, our country and the world. We cannot let this divide us. We need to unite against all forms of violence and hate. Our differences should be a cause for celebration, not something that foments hate.
I’m asking everyone to reach out and connect with your families, your friends and your neighbors. Let’s all stand together.”
Witnesses described the terror on the train as commuters rushed to help the injured and call 911. Police commended witnesses who called 911, helped officers track down the suspect and attempted life saving measures on the victims.
“Obviously this was incredibly scary for people that were there,” Simpson said.
The Multnomah County Health Call Center is reminding the community that its services are available for anyone involved in the incident on the MAX. The call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people who need someone to talk to.
“It looks like it could stir up a lot of bad feelings that people have,” Mike Pullen with Multnomah County said. “Whether you were on the train or you heard about it on the news, these kind of events, maybe you’re a veteran, maybe you’re somebody whose experience domestic violence, this can trigger some very deep sadness and trauma for people.”
You can call 503.988.4888 or toll free to 800.716.9769 to speak to a trained operator. The hearing impaired can dial 711 to be connected to the center.
Homicide detectives investigated at the transit center for several hours Friday night and the MAX platform remained closed.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations has also offered its resources to help Portland police with the investigation. In a statement released Friday night, the FBI of Oregon said:
At the core of the FBI’s mission is the belief that every person has the right to live, work and worship in this country without fear. Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered.
Anyone who was a witness to or has information about this incident is asked to call the Police Non-Emergency Line at 503-823-3333.