Two people are dead and one was injured after a stabbing on a train in Portland, Ore., on Friday afternoon.
Police say the disturbance began when a man on a light-rail train “began yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.” Among the subjects of his diatribe were two young women who appeared to be Muslim; one was wearing a hijab.
“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 that he was yelling at,” Sgt. Pete Simpson told The Oregonian. “They were attacked viciously.”
The suspect stabbed three people before fleeing the train; police located him and took him into custody.
One victim, identified as an adult male, died at the scene. Two other victims were taken to the hospital, where one was pronounced dead; the other is injured but expected to survive.
Police identified the suspect as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian of North Portland. He has been booked on two counts each of aggravated murder and intimidation in the second degree, and one count each of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Simpson said that, though the attack happened just before the start of Ramadan, police weren’t yet sure the attack was “religiously motivated.”
“These were folks just riding the train and unfortunately got caught up in this,” Simpson said. “He was talking about a lot of different things, not just specifically anti-Muslim.”
Imtiaz Khan, President of the Islamic Center of Portland, told OPB that since the election, hate speech and harassment of the Muslim community have increased.
“We are very sad. Ramadan started just a couple hours ago,” said Khan. “We are very sorry for the two men who tried to do the right thing.”
Khan said that “Of course people from the Muslim community are concerned. And unfortunately the easy targets are women because of the headscarf.”
The two women left before police arrived on the scene; detectives would like to speak with them and other witnesses.
Police say the state medical examiner will conduct autopsies late Saturday morning, after which the names of the three victims will be released.
Christian will be arraigned on Monday and could face additional charges.