A confrontation on a Portland light-rail train turned deadly Friday night, when two men were stabbed to death while trying to stop another passenger from harassing two young women.
The suspect, identified by Portland police as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian, was reportedly shouting “remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions” when at least two bystanders attempted to intervene. Christian then became aggravated and attacked three passengers with a knife, killing two.
A statement from the local police department suggests the targets of Christian's tirade were possibly Muslim women:
Witnesses described to police two young women, possibly Muslim, who were on the train at the time of the disturbance and attack, but left prior to police arrival. The young women have not been identified but one was described as wearing a hijab. Detectives would like to speak to them, and any other people who left the scene, as they may be witnesses to this incident.
Christian initially fled the scene but was apprehended soon after by local authorities. He was booked and charged with two counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation, and one count of felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
According to BuzzFeed News, Christian is a known white supremacist who regularly posted anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content to his personal Facebook page.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was en route to London to mark the inaugural first direct flight between the two cities at the time of the attack. He returned home on the first available flight and posted a heartfelt message on Facebook celebrating the courage of the three men who tried to intervene:
Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn't know against hatred. Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes.
There is too much hatred in our world right now, and far too much violence. Too much of it has arrived here in Portland.
My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives, and to those who witnessed what happened. Thank you to our first responders, who provided aid, and police who captured the suspected killer.
Now is the time, we must come together as a community and love one another. We must reject hatred and violence. We must seek justice.
The names of the victims will be made public after autopsies have been completed.