Family Sues Over Portland Light-Rail Stabbings

(CN) – A white supremacist who fatally stabbed two men in July 2017 on a Portland light-rail train should not have been allowed to ride after police and transit employees were notified of his violent, racist outbursts at other passengers, according to a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit filed Thursday.

Portland Police and metro employees were notified of Jeremy Christian’s hate speech and the violent threats made against other train riders on several occasions before Christian stabbed three men on May 26, 2017, according to the complaint filed by the family of Taliesin Namkai-Meche.

The trio stepped in to protect two teenage girls, one wearing a hijab, who were being verbally attacked by Christian. According to prosecutors, Christian pulled out a folding knife and slashed the men in their throats.

Namkai-Meche, 23, was stabbed in the neck and head approximately five times according to the complaint. Authorities say Christian also stabbed and killed 53-year-old Rick Bes while the third man, Micah Fletcher, 21, survived. 

According to Namkai-Meche’s family, the environmental economic analyst’s death could have been prevented if the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon and the Portland Police Bureau had done more to ensure passengers’ safety.

“As part of that heightened duty of care, TriMet had a duty to take reasonable measures to prevent criminal activity in the confined spaces of its stations, platforms, and trains,” the family says in the complaint.

Namkai-Meche’s family points to multiple incidents where Christian terrorized passengers on the Portland Metro trains, including two episodes the day before the fatal stabbing. But police and metro employees did not follow through on reports from passengers, the family says.

On one train ride, Christian began “ranting hate speech about African Americans, Jews, Mexicans, and Japanese,” the family says. “He threatened to kill anyone who got in his way. He then accosted and assaulted an African American woman on the train.”

The woman pounded on a compartment door to alert a train operator but she was ignored, according to the complaint. When the train stopped the woman told a police officer about the assault, but Christian was not arrested and there was no follow-up investigation, the family says.

In another incident, Christian terrorized passengers for 15 minutes and threatened to stab anyone who tried to stop his rant filled with hate speech. Police did not board the train over multiple stops and he was allowed to carry on verbally assaulting the other passengers, according to the complaint.

TriMet and police track crime statistics for the light-rail system – meaning they should have been aware the Rose Quarter and Hollywood transit centers on the Metropolitan Area Express are the most crime-ridden stretches in the system, the family says.

The family’s claims include wrongful death, negligence and common carrier liability against TriMet. They also seek a court-ordered study to evaluate security on the light-rail system and implementation of security improvements.

They are represented by Anne Foster and Samuel Smith of the firm Dunn Carney in Portland.

TriMet declined to comment on pending litigation. An email to the Portland Police Bureau was not answered by press time.

Christian is set to go on trial in early 2020.

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