A man fatally stabbed two passengers aboard a commuter train in the United States after they tried to stop him from shouting anti-racial slurs at two women, police said on Saturday.
Police identified the assailant, who was arrested soon after the Friday afternoon attack in Portland, Oregon, as Jeremy Joseph Christian, a 35-year-old convicted felon.
Christian started shouting ethnic and religious slurs, apparently at the two young women, one of whom wore a hijab, the Portland Police Department said in a statement. Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson said the attacker was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs" before he was confronted by other passengers on the train, CNN reported.
Three men who intervened were stabbed. One man, 53-year-old Ricky John Best, died at the scene. Another, 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, died at a hospital. The third victim, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
The three men were being hailed as "heroes" after the incident.
"Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example, an inspiration to us all," the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, said.
Police say they'll examine what appears to be the extremist ideology of the attacker.
— Jaber Nyrabeah (@JaberNyrabeah) May 27, 2017
Sister of man killed while defending Muslims in Portland: "I am so proud to be able to call someone so brave and strong my big brother." pic.twitter.com/ada9Vo6ibU
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) May 27, 2017
Attacker had criminal past
Christian was booked on two counts of aggravated murder and charges of attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, and was ordered held without bail.
The women left the train before officers arrived, police said.
Dyjuana Hudson, the mother of one of them, told The Oregonian newspaper her 16-year-old daughter boarded the train with a Muslim friend, also a teenager, who was wearing a hijab.
The attacker approached the girls while screaming at them, Hudson told the newspaper, relaying an account her daughter had given her. "He was saying that Muslims should die," Hudson said.
On Friday police said detectives wanted to speak to the two women. A detective later took a statement from her family, Hudson told the paper. She could not be reached for comment.
Police declined to release details of Christian's criminal history. But the newspaper reported he had been convicted of robbery, kidnapping and weapon charges, citing court records. It was not immediately clear if he had obtained an attorney.
A senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center said Christian's Facebook page showed he held "some racist and other extremist beliefs."
In a statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations blamed an increase in anti-Muslim incidents in part on President Donald Trump's focus on anti-immigrant rhetoric.
A Facebook page that appears to belong to Christian mentions "Jihadi Muslims" among people he disliked. The image on the page matches a photo of Christian released by police.
"If Donald Trump is the Next Hitler then I am joining his SS to put an end to Monotheist Question," a rambling post on Jan. 23 reads.
The page includes images of Christian raising his right hand in a Nazi-like salute at a "Free Speech" protest in Portland last month.