PORTLAND, Ore. (CNN) — Authorities investigating the deadly stabbings on a Portland commuter train Friday (May 26) are looking into the suspect’s background and trying to determine whether the man will be charged with federal hate crimes.
As of Saturday (May 28), Jeremy Joseph Christian was being held on suspicion of state crimes, including aggravated murder, for which the death penalty is a possible sentence.
The FBI has joined the Portland police-led investigation to gather evidence.
“It’s too early to say whether last night’s violence was an act of domestic terrorism or a federal hate crime,” Renn Cannon, the special agent in charge of the Portland office of the FBI, told reporters Saturday.
The killings — in which two men were fatally stabbed and another was wounded — came after Christian allegedly started yelling what “would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions” toward two women in a
Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light-rail train, Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson said.
Witnesses described the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, as Muslim.
As two men tried to calm him down, Christian, 35, stabbed them and one other man, police said. The two men who died were identified Saturday (May 28) as Ricky John Best , 53, of Happy Valley, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland.
Best died at the scene, and Meche died at a hospital, police said.
Best, an Army veteran and father of four children, was a “model public servant” working for the city of Portland, a spokesman for Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said.
“My heart goes out to the family of Rick Best. They have lost a husband and a father, and we have lost a treasured employee,” Eudaly said in a statement.
Namkai-Meche graduated with a degree in economics from Portland’s Reed College last year. In a statement, his thesis adviser Noelwah R. Netusil, said he was “a very caring person, smart, hardworking, and with such a bright future.”