A man riding the MAX in Northeast Portland fatally stabbed two passengers who tried to stop him from hurling racial and anti-Muslim insults at women on the train, witnesses tell WW’s news partner KATU-TV.
The suspect is currently in Portland police custody. The stabbing occurred at about 4:30 this afternoon as the light-rail train pulled into the Hollywood Transit Center.
Details of the triple stabbing, which killed two men, are still emerging. But eyewitness reports to KATU and The Oregonian indicate it was an anti-immigrant hate crime.
Witnesses told KATU’s Joe Douglass the stabbing suspect was hurling racial insults at two women with dark skin, one of whom was wearing a headdress. Two men who came to the woman’s defense had their throats slashed by the suspect, witnesses said.
Another witness says she saw two women who appeared to be of Middle Eastern-descent get on the train. At least one of them was wearing a headdress. The suspect was asking them questions when he got belligerent. When another bystander tried to calm him down, the man took out a knife and began stabbing people.
“He said, ‘Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here,’ [he said he] doesn’t like Muslims, they’re criminals,” Evelin Hernandez said.
WW will update this post when police release further information.
UPDATE, 8:20 pm: At a press conference, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed eyewitness reports that the man was verbally abusing two women, one in a hijab.
Simpson said that screed was part of a larger, unfocused rant and erratic behavior.
“It’s horrific,” Simpson said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”
UPDATE, 8:45 pm: The Portland Police Bureau has issued an official statement on the double slaying. It says the man who committed the attacks was “yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.”
It also says police are still looking for the two young women, who may have been targets of the verbal abuse.
Preliminary information indicates that the suspect was on the MAX train yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions. At least two of the victims attempted to intervene with the suspect and calm him down. The suspect attacked the men, stabbing three, before leaving the train.
Witnesses described to police two young women, possibly Muslim, who were on the train at the time of the disturbance and attack, but left prior to police arrival. The young women have not been identified but one was described as wearing a hijab. Detectives would like to speak to them, and any other people who left the scene, as they may be witnesses to this incident.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C., tonight decried the killings and asked President Donald Trump “to speak out personally against rising bigotry and acts of racial violence in America targeting Muslims and other minority groups.”
The attack falls on the eve of Ramadan, the month of fasting that is among the most sacred holidays for Muslims.