Man Found Guilty in Deadly Attack on Oregon Tram

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Jeremy Christian, the man who stabbed three people during a racist rant on a crowded commuter train in 2017, will likely spend life in prison after a jury found him guilty Friday on a dozen charges including first-degree murder, assault and menacing.

Family members of the two men killed sobbed as the verdict was announced by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht. Others sat silently, tears streaming down their faces. But in a marked difference from his frequent defiant outbursts at earlier court proceedings, Christian’s facial expression registered nothing. Ringed by five sheriff’s deputies, Christian shuffled silently out of the courtroom after the verdict.

Jeremy Christian reacts as a judge reads a jury verdict finding him guilty on all charges including murder in the 2017 attack on a Portland commuter train. (Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian
/OregonLive Pool)

In the hallway outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced, Demetria Hester, one of the people Christian assaulted, embraced local activist Teressa Raiford.

“Black lives matter!” the women yelled. Their voices echoed in the marble hallway.

Christian’s attorneys had argued that he had acted in self-defense. A frequenter of Portland-area alt-right rallies who sided neither with far-right groups like the Proud Boys nor their nemesis Antifa, Christian, 37, instead championed free speech, spouting disjointed theories about Vikings and circumcision, beheadings and Saudi Arabia. He attended one rally clad in an American flag cape, arm extended in a Nazi salute. A metal plate holds the right side of his face together – a remnant from being shot in the face by police as they arrested him from a 2002 robbery. Eight years in prison followed, with multiple stays in solitary confinement.

On a sunny Friday afternoon at the start of Memorial Day weekend in 2017, Christian, then 35, rode the MAX train, drinking wine and yelling. He’d just been kicked out of his parents’ house. Videos taken by passengers show him announcing that he’s a “nazi,” that he hates Muslims and Jews, and that such people shouldn’t be in “his country.”

Two black teens, Destinee Mangum and Walia Mohamed, who wore a hijab, were also on the train, headed to the mall. Mangum testified that Christian yelled at them, saying they don’t deserve to be here.

“He told us to die,” Mangum said.

Other passengers on the crowded train yelled back or ignored him, told him to shut up or put in their headphones. Several stepped in, trying alternately to calm Christian, to divert his attention from the girls, to film him or to confront him.

Moments later, Ricky Best, a 53-year-old father of four, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, lay on the floor of the train, bleeding to death. A third, Micah Fletcher, fled from the train, holding his bleeding neck. Fletcher survived because a bystander pressed a pink baby blanket to his leaking jugular and calmed him by pressing his chest to Fletcher’s, telling Fletcher to match his slow breathing. That man helped Fletcher call his mom as they waited for an ambulance.

Afterward, Christian walked away from the scene, following the screaming girls, bloody knife in hand. After he was arrested, he continued to rant in the backseat of the police car.

“Get stabbed in the neck if you hate free speech, because I’m a patriot,” he said, his face obscured by a spit mask. “That’s right, it’s a hate crime. I hope they all die. I hope everybody I stabbed dies.”

Lawyers Greg Scholl and Dean Smith told the jury Christian was merely exercising his right to free speech and that Christian’s reaction – slashing the throats of three men – was self-defense. The jury found otherwise after deliberating 11 hours.

Demetria Hester, one of Jeremy Christian’s victims. (Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian /OregonLive/ Pool)

The attack was an echo of the violence he had inflicted in an eerily similar incident 17 hours earlier. On the night of May 25, 2017, Christian was aboard the MAX, yelling that he was a nazi. Like the incident the next day, other passengers told Christian to shut up. One was Hester, a black woman. Christian then trained his tirade on Hester, followed her off the train, and threw a full bottle of Gatorade squarely at her right eye.

For that incident, the jury found Christian guilty of assault, intimidation, menacing and unlawful use of a weapon.

And like the fatal incident the next day, Christian walked away.

“Move forward bus driver or I’ll stab you too,” Christian said. “I’m about to stab some motherfuckers.”

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