Micah Fletcher, 21, Rick Best, 23, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 53, were honored as Oregon’s 2017 Newsmakers of the Year.
Event That Thrust Three Heroes Into the Headlines
Aboard the MAX light rail Greenline, these men did not know one another but, as a group, they came to the defense of two teenage black girls, one wearing a hajib.
On May 26, 2017, the girls were subjected to anti-Muslim slurs and the belligerent rants of Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35. He shouted he was a taxpayer, people of color were ruining Portland, and that had First Amendment rights.
One witness, Rachel Macy, stated she felt a man brush past her as he talked on his phone moving away from Christian, who was identified as Namkai-Meche. Best remained close to the assailant, reassuring him that he was being heard and trying to calm him down.
However, Christian did not respond and continued his loud rant. As the train approached its stop, the heroes seemed to be creating a barrier to protect the girls. Christian knocked Namkai-Meche’s phone out of his hands and thrust a knife into his neck. The assailant slashed the throats of the other two men, Best and Fletcher.
Their wounds were severe, Best was pronounced dead at the scene, and Namkai-Meche was taken to the hospital where he died. Passengers gave aid, applying pressure, and CPR until the paramedics arrived. Fletcher staggered out of the train grasping his neck. He barely survived and a physical reminder of the horrific day; the jagged scar.
On May 27, KATU News reported that Christian was “facing two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of intimidation, and felon in possession of a restricted weapon.” He was arraigned in Multnomah County on May 30 and returned to court for a bail hearing on October 20.
Readers Voted Overwhelmingly for the Heroes
Through The Oregonian readers’ input, the initial 27 candidates for the honor was narrowed down to 10. The list included two political figures, a religious activist, the face of the PDX Resistance, an Oregon Zoo Polar bear, a young man who won an essay contest, the Oregon firefighters, and a Clackamas County sheriff’s sergeant who blew the whistle on another officer who failed to do his duty.
Bittersweet Memories of Portland Oregon’s Heroes
Macy recalls Namkai-Meche saying, “Tell everyone on this train I love them,” as he was taken out on a stretcher. Those words were written on the wall behind the make-shift memorial.
Shortly after the attacks, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said:
[The heroes’] actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. We must come together as a community and love one another. We must reject hatred and violence.
From his hospital bed, Fletcher shared his thoughts on the event. He wrote:
This is what we must do for one another
We must live for one another
We must fight for one another
We must die in the name of freedom if we have to.
This time of divisive rhetoric from the president and his administration has given hatred and extreme bigotry a profound resurgence in the United States. The assailant, Christian, was a clear example of the dark times the country is facing.
Oregon is known for its progressive nature and hatred of any kind is not tolerated by law enforcement and citizens alike. Unfortunately, three men became heroes standing up for the values Oregonians hold dear.
By Cathy Milne
The Oregonian: Portland MAX hero’s last words: ‘Tell everyone on this train I love them’
The Oregonian: 2017 Oregon Newsmaker of the Year Top 10 candidates: Vote for a winner
The Oregonian: Three MAX heroes are The Oregonian/OregonLive’s 2017 Newsmakers of the Year
The Oregonian: MAX attack suspect back in court for scheduling of bail hearing
KATU News: What we know about the MAX train double murder suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of dmytrok’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License