A man fatally stabbed two passengers aboard a commuter train to Portland after attempting to stop harassing two women who appeared to be Muslims, police said Saturday.
Police identified the bomber, who was arrested shortly after the attack on Friday afternoon, as Jeremy Joseph Christian Portland, a convicted felon of 35 years.
A principal investigator with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an article on the blog, said Facebook’s Cristiano page revealed that he had “extremist and racist beliefs.”
The attack took place hours before the start of Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims observe a day of religious fasting.
“It’s too early to say whether last night’s violence was an act of domestic terrorism or a federal hate crime,” Loren Cannon, a special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Oregon, said Monday. He joined the investigation.
Cristiano began shouting ethnic and religious insults, apparently between the two young women, one carrying a Muslim cover, the Portland Police Department said in a statement.
Three men who intervened were stabbed. Ricky John Best (53) Happy Valley, Oregon, died on stage, while Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche (23) Southeast Portland died in a hospital, police said. A third victim, Micah David Cole Fletcher, 21, in southeastern Portland, remained in a local hospital with serious but non-fatal injuries, police said.
Cristiano was charged with two counts of aggravated homicide and charges of attempted murder, intimidation and being a criminal in possession of a restricted weapon and was sentenced to be detained without bail. His trial is scheduled for Tuesday.
The women, who had left the train before the arrival of the agents were later in contact with the authorities, according to police, who do not reveal their identity.
Dyjuana Hudson, the mother of one of them told The Oregonian newspaper that her 16-year-old daughter, who is black, had boarded the train with a Muslim friend wearing a hijab.
The attacker approached the girls screaming, Mrs. Hudson told the newspaper, the transmission of an account that her daughter had given her. “He said Muslims should die.”
On Friday, police said the detectives wanted to talk to the two women. A detective then took a statement from his family, Mrs. Hudson told the newspaper. She could not be reached for comment.
Police refused to know details of Cristiano’s criminal history, but the newspaper reported that he had been convicted of robbery, kidnapping and weapons, citing court documents. It was not immediately clear if he had obtained a lawyer.
The suspect had no known affiliation with a criminal gang member and no mental health history, according to police.
In a statement, the American-Islamic Relations Council has accused an increase in anti-Muslim incidents in part of President Donald Trump’s focus on militant Islamist groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The administration said that while strongly opposing Islamic militants, it does not have a conflict with Islam.
A Facebook page that seems to belong to Christian mentions “Muslim jihadists” among people who do not like it. The image on the page is an image of Cristiano published by the police.
“There is too much hatred in the world at the moment and too much violence. Our current political climate offers a lot of space for those who spread intolerance,” said Ted Wheeler, a Portland mayor at a news conference.
The best, one of the murdered men, worked for the city of Portland, was an army veteran and was a single candidate for Clackamas County Commissioner.
Best, who was married and had three teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter, was very well regarded in his work as a technician for the City Development Services Office, said his colleague.