PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — Jeremy Christian, convicted of hate crimes and the murders of two men on a Oregon commuter train, was sentenced to life in prison following a hearing punctuated by his outbursts, including yelling “I should have killed you, bitch!” at a black woman he assaulted.
Finding, as the jury did, that Christian committed his crimes based on “unreasonable racial and religious biases,” Judge Cheryl A. Albrecht on Wednesday sentenced Christian to two terms of life in prison without possibility of parole. Christian, now 38, could have gotten a sentence that would have allowed for his release at age 70.
In a statement just before the judge read his sentence, Christian told Micah Fletcher, who survived being stabbed in the throat, that Fletcher should apologize to the families of the two men Christian killed in the 2017 stabbing attack.
Christian said that although he sees himself as morally responsible for the deaths of Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, he wouldn’t have killed them if Fletcher hadn’t tried to stop him from yelling a hateful diatribe at two young black girls on the train that day.
“They involved themselves in the situation, and sadly, they died,” Christian said Wednesday over videoconference from a room in the Multnomah County Jail. “I do regret that two people died, but I do not regret my actions that led to their deaths.”
Christian heard most of Tuesday’s victim impact statements remotely, over videoconference from a room in the Multnomah County Jail, after Multnomah County Circuit Judge Cheryl A. Albrecht said he had forfeited his right to be present in the courtroom by yelling at Demetria Hester. Christian was convicted of menacing Hester on the night before he murdered two men and stabbed a third.
At the start of Memorial Day weekend in 2017, Jeremy Christian, then 35, sat aboard a light-rail train, drinking from the spigot of a plastic bladder of boxed sangria as he ranted about Jews and Muslims, beheadings and Saudi Arabia, and Vikings and circumcision. Christian directed his vitriol at two black teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
Passengers yelled back at him. One man, Shawn Forde, stood between Christian and the girls, in an attempt to block them from Christian’s view. Fletcher, then 21, joined Forde, telling Christian to “shut up and leave the girls alone.” Namkai-Meche, who was 23, approached Christian, holding out his cellphone.
“You’re about to be an internet sensation,” Namkai-Meche told him.
Christian slapped the phone out of Namkai-Meche’s hand before he could press record.
“Do something, bitch!” Christian yelled. He shoved Fletcher, who pushed him back.
Christian grabbed a folding knife out of his pocket as he shoved Namkai-Meche with his other hand. The train stopped and the doors opened as the men stood face-to-face. Best, 53, stood behind Namkai-Meche.
None of them could see the knife Christian held down at his side. He opened the blade with a flick of his wrist when Fletcher shoved him again.
“Go on and get,” Fletcher yelled.
Over the next 12 seconds, Christian sliced the necks of three men. Best and Namkai-Meche fell to the floor. Fletcher fled, while Christian stabbed the other two men again and again.
Afterward, there was chaos. One witness mistook the spray of blood for a sudden rain. Some tried to help the men who were stabbed, while others fled, stepping over their bodies.
Best died on the train. Namkai-Meche was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Fletcher survived, a prominent scar running from below his ear nearly to his collarbone.
This past February, a jury found Christian guilty of all 12 charges against him, including first-degree murder, assault and menacing. Hester says the killings could have been prevented if police had listened to her: Christian menaced her with a knife on that same train, 17 hours before he stabbed three men.
Police were summoned, but Christian wasn’t arrested. Hester says police asked her for her identification while Christian walked away.
“They acted like I was the perpetrator,” Hester said at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, as Christian sat next to his attorneys, his shoulders shaking with laughter.
During the trial, Hester and other witnesses described what happened the night before the murders, and the jury watched video footage from both inside the train and outside, on the platform.
“I’m a Nazi,” Christian yelled. “Fuck all of you. You can’t talk to me like that bitch. I’ll fuck you up.”
Hester, a restaurant worker on her way home, told him to shut up.
“Fuck you, bitch,” Christian said. “I’ll kill you.”
Hester got off the train and Christian followed her.
“You’re going to get it now, bitch,” Christian said.
She pepper-sprayed him and he threw a full bottle of Gatorade at her eye.
But when a Portland police officer arrived, he interviewed Hester, asking to see her identification, while Christian walked away.
“‘I’m about to stab some motherfuckers,’” prosecutor Jeff Howes told the jury. “That’s what the defendant said.”
Seventeen hours later, Christian was back on the train, again spewing hate and making slicing motions across his neck with his fingers. By 4:32 that sunny Friday afternoon, Christian was swinging a knife.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Hester and family members of the men stabbed testified about how the crime had affected them.
Hester told Judge Albrecht that the court had failed to protect her and the other victims from Christian’s frequent outbursts during proceedings.
“You have given the defendant the green light to treat us with such disregard,” Hester told Albrecht. “The assailant lunged at me and yelled at me, ‘you liar!’ You allowed it. When the assailant kept blurting out in court, you did not address him. When the assailant winked at me in court, I was told he was winking at his mom. You allowed it. When the assailant refused to stand before the jury when he was found guilty, you allowed it. When the assailant waved and smiled, trying to intimidate the young African American ladies that were testifying, you allowed it.”
As Hester spoke, Christian shook his head, his shoulders jolting with laughter. Hester then turned her attention to him.
“To Mr. Jeremy Christian, your mom should have swallowed you,” Hester said. “You are a waste of breath. And when you die and go to hell, I hope you rot.”
“I’ll see you there, bitch,” Christian said.
“Now, hey — ” Albrecht said.
“Go back to Tennessee too,” Christian told Hester. “We don’t want you here with all your race-baiting bullshit.”
Christian turned to Teressa Raiford, a black woman and former mayoral candidate sitting next to Hester for support.
“You ain’t gonna be mayor either, bitch,” Christian told Raiford.
Christian ripped off his face mask with one hand while sheriff’s deputies cuffed the other behind his back.
“You fucking hoes!” he yelled. “You fucked up our whole system!”
Then Christian began yelling the name of George Floyd, the black man killed on this year on Memorial Day weekend, when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while Floyd said repeatedly he couldn’t breathe.
Four deputies hustled Christian out the courtroom door as he continued to yell at Hester:
“I should have killed you, bitch!” Christian yelled. “I should have killed your bitch ass.”