Portland Police and witnesses say a triple stabbing aboard a MAX train Friday afternoon may have been religiously motivated. The stabbing was reported around 4:30 p.m. as the train pulled into the Hollywood Transit Center station in Northeast Portland. Two people have been pronounced dead and another has non-life threatening injuries.
Multiple witnesses told KATU the suspect was hurling racial insults at two women, at least one of whom was wearing a hijab. Police wouldn’t confirm their ages, but referred to them as “girls” and “young women.” Sgt. Pete Simpson with Portland Police added the suspect appeared to be acting erratically, and wasn’t necessarily focused on anti-Muslim insults during the attack.
Two men who came to the women’s defense had their throats slashed by the suspect, Sgt. Simpson said.
Tragically, both Good Samaritans have died, but the suspect who allegedly murdered them has been caught and is in police custody.
Witnesses say the incident began when the unknown assailant began verbally abusing the two young women on the train.
“[The suspect] said, ‘Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here,’ [he said he] doesn’t like Muslims, they’re criminals,” Evelin Hernandez said.
The police account offers more detail:
This investigation started on Friday May 26, 2017, at 4:30 p.m., when North Precinct and Transit Police Division officers responded to the report of a disturbance on an eastbound MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Station involving a male who stabbed two other people.
Multiple officers responded to the area and, while enroute, learned that the suspect got off the train and was leaving the area on foot towards Providence Medical Center.
Officers and medical personnel arrived at the Hollywood Transit Station and located three stabbing victims. Officers began immediate medical treatment to the victims at the scene until medical personnel arrived. One victim, an adult male, died at the scene.
The other two victims were transported by ambulance to a Portland hospital, where one was pronounced dead and the other was treated for injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening.
The suspect was located by officers and taken into custody. The suspect received medical treatment and was turned over to Homicide detectives. Preliminary information indicates that the suspect was on the MAX train yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.
At least two of the victims attempted to intervene with the suspect and calm him down. The suspect attacked the men, stabbing three, before leaving the train.
Witnesses described to police two young women, possibly Muslim, who were on the train at the time of the disturbance and attack, but left prior to police arrival. The young women have not been identified but one was described as wearing a hijab.
Detectives would like to speak to them, and any other people who left the scene, as they may be witnesses to this incident.
Police say they don’t yet know if the suspect has a mental illness or substance abuse problems that may have caused or contributed to his evil behavior.
As mentioned, detectives are requesting that any person who saw the incident or has any pertinent information to offer contact them. Detectives can be reached via a non-emergency line — 503-823-3333.
The Portland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it stands ready to offer assistance to the Portland police and will conduct its own investigation if there is evidence federal law was broken — which it seems there is.
“The FBI is aware of the attacks tonight, and we are offering any resource that may assist Portland Police in their investigation,” said the statement.
“We will certainly be looking at the facts and evidence as the investigation unfolds to determine whether there is any potential federal violation. At the core of the FBI’s mission is the belief that every person has the right to live, work and worship in this country without fear. Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered.”
Responding on behalf of the City of Portland, Commissioner Eudaly said:
The city of Portland has a heavy heart right now, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the deceased and injured. This is an especially sad and disturbing incident. People lost their lives or were injured because they stood up to hate.
We need to offer our heartfelt support to the two women and others who were targeted. The courage of the people who stood up for them is a reminder that we as a city need to stand together to denounce hate. Thank you to the courageous witnesses who helped police locate the suspect before more people were hurt; thank you to the first responders and medical personnel who arrived quickly to administer aid; and thank you to the police for apprehending the suspect.
These are troubling times across our city, our country and the world. We cannot let this divide us. We need to unite against all forms of violence and hate. Our differences should be a cause for celebration, not something that foments hate.
I’m asking everyone to reach out and connect with your families, your friends and your neighbors. Let’s all stand together.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking Donald Trump to personally denounce this hate crime and renounce Islamophobia and racism in all forms.
“President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
“Only a strong statement from the nation’s leader will send a message to bigots that such acts of violence targeting racial, ethnic or religious minorities are unacceptable.”
Awad also urged local Muslim communities to step up security measures during the month-long fast of Ramadan, which began tonight. CAIR is offering Muslim community leaders free copies of its booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.” The booklet may be requested through CAIR’s website.
Earlier this week, CAIR condemned the murder of an African-American Bowie State University student by a suspect who is a member of a white supremacist group on Facebook called “Alt-Reich Nation.”
A vigil is planned for Saturday night at the transit center. We urge readers in the Portland area to try and attend if at all possible.
Resist the darkness, we must, with everything we have.