May 27 (UPI) — Two men were fatally stabbed and another was wounded on a train in Portland, Ore., when they tried to quell a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs Friday, police said.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was charged with two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation and one count each of attempted aggravated murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted firearm, police said.
The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. Friday on a Metropolitan Area Express light-rail train.
“This suspect was on the train and he was yelling and ranting and raving, a lot of different things, including what would be characterized as hate speech or bias language,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said. “In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people he was yelling at and they were attacked viciously by the suspect.”
At one point, his remarks were directed at two young women believed to be Muslim. Witnesses said one was wearing a hijab.
“We have not been able to find those girls to verify that,” Simpson said to CNN.
Arsenia Brittell, who was seated behind the driver of the train, said the suspect slashed the throats of the victims.
“[The suspect] was just cursing, cursing, cursing, and so the passengers were getting nervous so the girls moved to our area,” Brittel said to KGW-TV. “He was saying something about America, this is a free country, ‘I can do whatever I want’ and other people said ‘calm down.’ ”
Christian got off the train and he was apprehended near the Providence Medical Center, police said. He received medical treatment before being taken into custody.
One stabbed man died at the scene. Two others were taken to the hospital, where one died and the other is expected to survive, police said.
“It’s horrific. There’s no other word to describe what happened today,” Simpson said. “For the victims, our thoughts and prayers are with their families … for the witnesses, there is no other word, it is simply awful.”
Before the incident, Simpson said police planned additional patrols during Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims that started Friday.
“Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn’t know against hatred,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement. “Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes.”
“There is too much hatred in our world right now, and far too much violence. Too much of it has arrived here in Portland.”