Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler touted the “heroes” who tried to intervene when a man in the train, shouted racist insults at two young women who appeared to be Muslim.
The attack occurred Friday, on the first day of Ramadan – the holiest time of the year for the Muslims. It sent shockwaves through a city that prides itself on tolerance and liberal values.
“These two men died heroes as a result of a horrific act of racist violence. Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example, an inspiration for all of us. They are heroes,” Wheeler said.
The police identified the victims as Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, of Portland. The police said that the Best has died at the scene and that Meche died in a hospital.
The police said one of the two young women on the train was wearing a hijab. The offender was ranting about a range of topics, with the help of “incitement to hatred or biased language,” police Sgt. Pete Simpson said.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was held in the Multnomah County Jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, attempted murder, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. He was arrested a short time after the attack.
Dyjuana Hudson, a mother of one of the girls, told The Oregonian that the man began a racist tirade as soon as he saw the girls. Her daughter is an African-American, and was with a friend who was wearing a hijab, ” she said.
“He said that Muslims must die,” Hudson said. “They have been killing Christians for years.”
Court records Christian served prison time for first-degree theft and second-degree kidnapping after a crime committed 15 years ago and robbery and weapons charges were dismissed in 2010.
The Portland Mercury, an alternative weekly newspapers, an article posted on the website, says Christian came at a free speech march, at the end of April, with a baseball bat to confront the protesters and the bat was confiscated by the police.
The article included video clips of a man with a metal chain around his neck, and draped in an American flag shouting “I am a nihilist! This is my safe place!” as protesters crowd around him.
Simpson confirmed the man in the videos was a Christian and said that researchers were aware of them. He refused to comment further.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.