Micah Fletcher’s survival of last week’s deadly Oregon train stabbing may have come down to millimeters — the attacker’s blade, he says, sliced into his neck but just missed his carotid artery.
He and two other men, police say, were stabbed on a Portland commuter train when they confronted a man who’d directed a racially and religiously tinged tirade at two African-American teenagers, one of whom is Muslim and was wearing a hijab.
Fletcher offers a simple explanation for why he stepped in.
“It was the right thing to do,” Fletcher, 21, told CNN affiliate KPTV on Tuesday. “I’m not a hero, nobody special. I’m a kid from Portland.”
Take notice, he says: People need to stand up for one another.
“If you live here, move here, or if you want to call this city home, it is your home,” he told ABC News. “And we must protect each other like that is the truth, no matter what the consequences.”
“The Muslim community, especially in Portland, needs to understand that there are a lot of us that are not going to stand by and let anybody — whether they are from here or not — scare you into thinking you can’t be a part of this town, this city, this community, or this country,” he told ABC.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was arrested on suspicion of injuring Fletcher and fatally stabbing the two other men, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best, during Friday’s confrontation.
Fletcher — a long, freshly sutured wound visible on his neck — watched from the front row as Christian made an initial court appearance in a Portland courtroom on Tuesday.
In his interview with KPTV, Fletcher choked up when he spoke about the two men who died.
“I want the families of those two men (to know) that their children are heroes. They will always be loved in the eyes of this city,” he said.
Portland’s public buses and trains will stop at noon Friday for a moment of silence to honor Namkai-Meche, Best and Fletcher, the city’s TriMet transportation service said.
“May their sacrifices always be remembered, and their courage inspire unity and healing,” a post on TriMet’s Facebook page reads.
Christian yelled as he walked into the courtroom Tuesday: “Get out if you don’t like free speech!” and “You call it terrorism; I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die.”
Authorities say Friday’s attack happened after Christian boarded a MAX light rail train at 4:19 p.m. and yelled at the two teens who already were aboard.
“Get the f*** out!” he said, according to a probable cause affidavit. “Go home. We need Americans here!”
Train security cameras showed Christian taking “large drinks from a bladder style container of purple liquid” that Christian later identified as Sangria wine, the affidavit says.
One of the teens, Destinee Mangum, 16, told CNN affiliate KPTV that Christian “told us to go back to Saudi Arabia,” and said that “we should just kill ourselves.”
Mangum and her friend moved to the back of the train. A stranger intervened, telling Christian he couldn’t disrespect the girls in such a way, she said. Christian began arguing with several men.
Train security video and passengers’ cell phone video showed Christian “making a sudden move” toward Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland, who responded by standing, according to the affidavit. Christian was standing close to Namkai-Meche when Fletcher stood up, too, the affidavit said.
Christian shouted “Do something!” and shoved Fletcher in the chest and appeared to pull a folded knife from his pocket, the affidavit said. Fletcher shoved Christian so hard Christian lost his balance and told him to get off the train, the affidavit said.
Video showed Christian swinging his arm and — in one motion — opening the knife and stabbing Fletcher in the neck, the affidavit said. Christian next stabbed Namkai-Meche twice in the neck, the affidavit said.
Best, 53, of Happy Valley, moved forward to intervene and was stabbed in the neck, the affidavit said. Christian pushed Best into Namkai-Meche and stabbed both men again, the affidavit said.
Fletcher, clutching his neck wound, exited the train and got help from passengers on the platform, the affidavit said.
Christian grabbed his belongings, exited the train and used the knife to threaten several people on the platform, the affidavit said. He also grabbed the bag dropped by the Muslim woman and tossed it onto the freeway. He was arrested a short distance away.
Namkai-Meche and Best died of multiple stab wounds, the affidavit said.
Christian: ‘I can die in prison a happy man’
Court documents reveal other details about the attack’s aftermath and Christian’s past:
— When police cornered Christian after the stabbings, he threw a folding knife with a 3.75-inch blade that bounced off a police vehicle, the affidavit said.
— A video camera inside a patrol car captured Christian saying, “I just stabbed a bunch of (expletive) in their neck. … I can die in prison a happy man,” the affidavit said. He said one of the men on the train kept resisting him, despite his threats. “That’s what liberalism gets you,” Christian said.
— Christian said he was transient and “does not know the last time he had a permanent address.” Court documents from previous years show he lived with his parents. Christian said he dropped out of high school, but passed the high school equivalency exam known as the GED.
— He was sentenced to 90 months in prison for the 2002 armed robbery of a Portland convenience store. While fleeing, Christian was shot in the head by an officer who said he thought Christian was going to shoot him. Christian said he robbed the market because “the guy there doesn’t sell any winning lottery tickets,” the arresting officer said, according to a prosecutor’s affidavit.
Christian was arraigned Tuesday on several charges, including two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police say.
His next court appearance will be June 7. A Multnomah County grand jury will convene in the coming days to consider additional charges and federal authorities are still deciding whether to prosecute Christian for hate crimes.
Another incident the day before?
Video obtained by CNN affiliate KOIN shows that Christian was involved in similar behavior on a MAX train only one day before.
Recorded by a woman who asked to be identified only as KK, the video shows Christian on a train late Thursday, aiming pejoratives at a conductor.
“It looks like we have a Christian or Muslim (expletive) bus driver. I’ll stab you, too, (expletive),” he said.
KK told KOIN that Christian was upset, complaining about the city and “venting to his friend on the phone about some girl that just pepper-sprayed him.” He was complaining about Muslims, Christians and Jews — saying they should burn at the stake and “f**ing die” — something she’d never heard before on Portland’s MAX trains, she told the station.
Police spokesman Pete Simpson confirmed that the man in the KOIN video is Christian. Simpson also said that Christian was maced the day before the deadly attack. The incident is part of a larger investigation and he didn’t have further details, he told CNN.
Death penalty possible
Police are examining Christian’s background, “including the information publicly available about the suspect’s extremist ideology,” they said in a news release. Videos have surfaced showing Christian shouting at people, at one point saying the N-word, as police officers separated him.
The aggravated murder charges carry a maximum penalty of death. Oregon has not executed a prisoner in more than two decades.
Christian also has a 2011 conviction on federal charges of felon in possession of a firearm, court documents show. The sentence on that charge was not immediately available.
In September 2002 he was charged with unlawful use of a weapon for having a sap — a pink sock with two hard balls — while in the Multnomah County Detention Center and sentenced to 13 months imprisonment, documents said.