The two men who died defending a pair of teenagers on a train in Portland, Oregon last week are being hailed as “heroes” for their selfless act of bravery that may have saved the girls’ lives. Police have identified the victims as 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best, a 53-year-old Army veteran and father of four.
On Friday, 35-year-old convicted felon Jeremy Joseph Christian allegedly stabbed Namkai-Meche, Best, and a third passenger who remains hospitalized on an afternoon train. The men intervened after Christian was seen harassing two girls—one of whom is Muslim and was wearing a headscarf. According to Dyjuana Hudson, the mother of the Muslim teen, Christian was taunting the girls and shouting “all Muslims should die.”
Sergeant Pete Simpson confirmed the “suspect was on the train and he was yelling and ranting and raving a lot of different things, including what would be characterized as hate speech or biased language.” The passengers who attempted to subdue Christian were instead stabbed by the knife-wielding man.
The BBC reports that Christian was arrested soon after he disembarked the train and has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation, and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon. He will appear in court on Tuesday. While investigators said it is too early to determine if the attack could qualify as a federal hate crime or act of domestic terrorism, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center said Christian’s Facebook page contains “some racist and other extremist beliefs.”
Over the weekend, praise and adoration poured in for the three men who confronted Christian. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said their “brave and selfless actions… should serve as an example and inspiration to us all.”
Best, who spent 23 years serving in the Army, was on his way home from work as technician at the city Bureau of Development Services when he was killed. His supervisor, Kareen Perkins, remembered the beloved father as a hard worker who would do anything for anyone.
“He was just really good at his job and just great to work with,” she told The Oregonian. “He was always the first person you would go to for help. I’ve talked to most of his coworkers today, and several of them said it’s just like Rick to step in and help somebody out.”
Namkai-Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance, paid tribute to her late son in a touching Facebook post on Saturday writing:
“Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland. He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”
The mother of one the teens shared Deliverance’s post and offered her own words of thanks to the men who defended her daughter.
“Thank you thank you thank you… You will always be our hero ….I’m soooooo sorry this happened,” she wrote. “You didn’t even know my girls but you stepped in and saved my babies life[…] to the family I’m so sorry about your loss and I’m here if you need me.. The girls have come forth…”
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