Two men were stabbed to death and another was wounded when they tried to intervene and stop a man from yelling hateful slurs on a light-rail train at two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab. The victims apparently tried to calm the passenger down as he went on with his hateful statements but he proceeded to slash their throats. A third passenger was also stabbed but is expected to survive the Friday afternoon attacks that coincided with the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar.
Video posted online appears to show the suspect taunting police before he was arrested.
Police identified the suspect as Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, who was booked on two aggravated murder charges and an attempted murder charge, among others. Media outlets quickly identified Christian as a known white supremacist and right wing extremist. “He calls for a homeland for whites, he has anti-Semitic statements praising Nazis,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Povery Law Center after examining his Facebook page.
Christian also participated in the “March for Free Speech” in Portland on April 29 with a baseball bat in tow in an effort to attack left-wing protesters. Police took the bat away but he spent all day yelling racist slurs and giving the Nazi salute. “A few Portland police officers on April 29 appeared to be familiar with Christian, but not threatened by him,” reports the Portland Mercury. “They claimed he had a head injury and was mentally ill.”
Law enforcement officers also mentioned the specter of mental illness while discussing Friday’s stabbings. “We don’t know if he’s got mental health issues,” Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the police in Portland, said. “We don’t know if he’s under the influence of drugs or alcohol or all of the above.”