PORTLAND, Ore. – President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Oregon, light rail train.
"The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable," Trump said on Twitter. "The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them."
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were killed as they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, authorities say. The attack came on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest time of year for Muslims.
Christian's social media postings indicate an affinity for Nazis and political violence. He was charged with aggravated murder, intimidation — the state equivalent of a hate crime — and being a felon in possession of a weapon and was scheduled to be in court Tuesday.
Some had called for Trump to respond to the attack earlier, including former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.
"You must condemn this violent act and encourage Americans to stand together against hatred," Blumenauer wrote in a letter to the president.
The mother of one of the targets of the rant said she is overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness for the strangers who were stabbed to death when they came to the defense of her daughter, 16-year-old Destinee Mangum.
Dyjuana Hudson posted a photo on her Facebook page Saturday of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, saying: "Thank you thank you thank you. ... You will always be our hero. ... I'm soooooo sorry this happened." On Sunday, Hudson posted a video with her daughter saying they were traumatized by the event.
Mangum told news station KPTV that she and her 17-year-old friend were riding the train when Christian started yelling at them. She said her friend is Muslim, but she's not.
"He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn't be here, to get out of his country," Mangum said. "He was just telling us that we basically weren't anything and that we should kill ourselves."
The teens moved toward the back of the train, preparing to get off at the next stop.
"And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people, and it was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives," Mangum said.
Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, also was injured in the attack. The student at Portland State University was hospitalized after being stabbed in the neck, and his girlfriend, Miranda Helm, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Sunday that he was recovering his strength and eating.
Telephone messages left at the home of Christian's mother Sunday and Monday were not returned. It was not clear if he had a lawyer yet.
Tomica Clark told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she has known Christian since elementary school. She said she was surprised to hear people call Christian a racist. Clark is black and said Christian had a lot of black friends.
"He never disrespected me," Clark said, but added that he changed after he got out of prison.
"Prison took the real him away," she said.
Bellisle reported from Seattle.