PORTLAND –– A man fatally stabbed two people and injured a third on a commuter train in Oregon’s largest city Friday as people confronted him for “yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs,” a Portland police spokesman said.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was on a Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light-rail train in Portland late Friday afternoon when he started yelling what “would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” police said in news release.
Christian may have directed slurs at two young women who witnesses described as Muslim, one of whom was wearing a hijab, Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson told CNN.
As two men tried to calm him down, Christian stabbed them and one other man, police said.
One man died at the scene, and a second victim died at a hospital, police said.
The stabbings happened at the start of Ramadan, a monthlong Muslim holy period of prayer, fasting and charity.
Christian was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder, all felonies. He also was charged with misdemeanors: two counts of second-degree intimidation and a count of being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police said.
His felony convictions — for robbery and kidnapping — came in 2002, state corrections department records show.
He was being held Saturday at the Multnomah County jail without opportunity for bail. His arraignment is set for next week in county court, police said.
Christian could face additional charges once prosecutors present the case to a grand jury, police said.
Police want the women’s story
Investigators haven’t been able to verify whether Christian was targeting the women with slurs because police haven’t found them, Simpson said. Police want to speak with the women and anyone else who left the scene.
The victims apparently didn’t know Christian and were trying to protect other passengers on the train, police said.
The victims’ names weren’t immediately released. Witnesses said one was stabbed in the neck, CNN affiliate KOIN reported.
The injured passenger was being treated at a hospital and is expected to survive, police said.
‘Hate is evil’
Following the attack, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on President Donald Trump to denounce “rising bigotry” and acts of violence against Muslims.
“President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon took to Twitter to decry the stabbings.
“Terrible tragedy on Portland’s Max Train,” he posted. “Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil.”