Two Stabbed to Death Protecting Muslim Women in Portland

Two men are dead and one injured after trying to stop a man from hurling anti-Muslim speech at two women—one of them wearing a hijab.

Jim Ryan/The Oregonian via AP

A stabbing in Portland, Ore. on Friday has left two people dead and one person injured. The three victims were stabbed by a man after they tried to stop him from yelling anti-Muslim and racist remarks at passengers on the MAX train.

The comments made by the suspect, 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian from North Portland, were described as hate speech and were directed at two dark-skinned women, one wearing a hijab, police said. Christian has prior felony convictions—for robbery and kidnapping—from back in 2002.

Army veteran and father of four, Ricky John Best, 53, died at the scene. The other two victims were taken to the hospital, where 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche died. The other victim, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, is being treated for injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening, police said.

Namkai-Meche had recently graduated from Reed College in Portland. His mother posted on Facebook a picture and message honoring her son: “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil.”

Reed College president, John R. Kroger, described the incident in a statement as horrific and included kind word from Namkai-Meche’s professors who described him as intelligent, humble, and caring.

Loren Cannon, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, said that the FBI will be involved to make sure that justice is served for the victims. Cannon said that it is too early to tell if the stabbing was a federal hate crime, but that the FBI is planning on working with Portland police on the case.

“To those community members affected by this violence - in particular, the families of the Good Samaritans heroes and our neighbors in the Muslim and African-American communities - we stand with you,” Cannon said. “We won't allow these acts to go unanswered.”

According to the Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office, Christian is being charged with two counts of Aggravated Murder, Attempted Murder, two counts of Intimidation to the Second Degree, and Felon in Possession of a Restricted Weapon. Christian will be brought before the Multnomah County Court on Tuesday and may face more charges after the Attorney’s Office presents his case to a jury, police said.

This hate incident is one of many that have happened in the United States recently. Since the election of President Donald Trump, hate crime has been on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the first ten days after the election there were 867 hate incidents in the United States and 33 of them were in Oregon.

The high number of hate crimes is not surprising given Oregon’s history of racism. According to the Oregon Encyclopedia from the Oregon Historical Society, there was a law passed in 1849 blocking black people from moving or entering into Oregon. In the 1920s, the Klu Klux Klan was prominent in Oregon with 35,000 members.

Oregon officials are upset by the attack on Friday. Governor Kate Brown said in a statement that she is heartbroken and called the victims brave and compassionate.

“Oregon is a welcoming place to all,” she said. “Safety while traveling through our community is a basic human right that we need to be able to guarantee to everyone, regardless of where they're from, or what they believe.”

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Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, said at a vigil for the victims that he is upset by the incident but is also encouraged by their bravery.

“These individuals were willing to lay it all down on the line for two women who were the victims of hatred and bigotry and xenophobia,” Wheeler said.

A LaunchGood campaign called Muslims Unite for the Portland Heroes has been started to raise money for the families of the victims. The campaign has already raised nearly $150,000.