The man accused of killing an Army veteran and a recent college graduate on a Portland train shouted about patriotism, free speech, and the enemies of America in his first court appearance on Tuesday.
Jeremy Christian, a 35-year-old known locally as a white supremacist, was scheduled to be arraigned on charges that include aggravated murder. He was charged in Friday's killings of 53-year-old Ricky John Best and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, two men who stood up to Christian as he yelled at a Muslim teenager and her black friend.
As deputies led him into the courtroom, Christian began to rant.
"Free speech or die," he shouted. "This is America. Get out if you don't like free speech."
"You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism," he continued.
He continued calling for death to the "enemies of America," including anti-fascists. Several men who appeared to be antifa protesters stood outside the hearing, and as a friend of Christian's from prison arrived, they chased him away.
The friend, who identified himself as Jamie, said he had known Christian for 15 years and they were both homeless.
"If I went and got in some shit I'd want someone to stand by me," he said outside the courthouse.
He denied being a neo-Nazi, but he added, "I've fought and bled for my race."
As people outside the courtroom began to shout, deputies led Christian away through the secure back door. He did not enter a plea, and the judge moved on to hear other cases.
In the audience was Micah Fletcher, who also tried to intervene in Friday's attack and was injured. Stitches and bruising were visible on his neck; Christian had slashed at all three men's throats, according to people at the scene.
Earlier Tuesday, the 21-year-old poet and student released a statement, ABC News reported.
"I want the Muslim community to know that they have a home here in Portland and are loved," he said. "I want to honor the families who lost their brave fathers, sons and brothers, and I want the media and the country to honor those families. I want to send my condolences and honor those families."
An affidavit obtained by The Oregonian on Tuesday offered more details on the attack.
According to the affidavit, Christian entered the train at 4:19 p.m. Friday. Two black teenagers, one of whom was wearing a hijab, were already on the train and he began shouting at them.
"Get the fuck out!" Christian said, according to the affidavit. "Pay taxes!"
"I don't care if you are ISIS," the affidavit continued. "Fuck Saudi Arabia."
All the while, he was drinking sangria wine from a plastic container, the affidavit said. One man intervened and tried to verbally de-escalate the situation, the affidavit said. But Christian continued shouting, including a statement about "decapitating heads," the man later told police.
In video described by the affidavit, Christian made a sudden movement toward Namkai-Meche, adding, "Do something, bitch." Fletcher stood up next to Namkai-Meche, and Christian shoved him in the chest, the affidavit stated. Fletcher shoved back and told him to get off the train, the affidavit added.
Christian then began stabbing at the man with a knife that had been concealed in his hand, according to the affidavit. When Best moved forward to intervene, he too was stabbed.
Christian allegedly threatened other passengers as he got off the train.
He was arrested and booked into Multnomah County Jail. Charges include aggravated murder, attempted murder, and misdemeanor intimidation — Oregon's statute covering crimes of bias against a person's race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.
In the squad car, police recorders captured statements by Christian, the affidavit said according to Willamette Week.
"I told him, 'You ain't gonna heal, punk,'" Christian said, according to the affidavit. "And he still wants to put his hands on me. Die bitch. Fucking die. Stupid motherfucker. That's what liberalism gets you."
"I hope they all die," Christian said, according to the affidavit. "I'm gonna say that on the stand. I'm a patriot and I hope everyone I stabbed died."
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Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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Blake Montgomery is a reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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