The victims of the deadly stabbing attack aboard a light-rail train in Portland, Ore., on Friday are being hailed as heroes for intervening on behalf of two young women who were the apparent targets of the suspect’s anti-Muslim epithets.
“They were attacked because they did the right thing,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Saturday. “Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes.”
Rick Best, a 53-year-old U.S. Army veteran and city of Portland employee, was headed home on the train when a man, later identified as Jeremy Christian, began hurling epithets at two young women, including one wearing a hijab, witnesses said. Best and two other men were stabbed after stepping in to help, witnesses said.
Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, died at the scene. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was transported to a Portland hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Saturday.
— The Oregonian (@Oregonian) May 27, 2017
Muhammad A. Najieb, an imam at Portland’s Muslim Community Center, said Saturday he was “very thankful” as both a Muslim and a Portlander for their actions.
The two young women “could have been the victims,” Najieb added, “but three heroes jumped in and supported them.”
Namkai Meche, a recent graduate of Reed College, was remembered in a statement from a former professor.
“I still remember where he sat in conference and the types of probing, intelligent questions I could anticipate him asking,” Professor Kambiz GhaneaBassiri said in a statement posted to Facebook. “He was thoughtful, humble, smart, inquisitive, and compassionate. He was a wonderful human being. As good as they come. And now he is a hero to me.”
Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance, also mourned her son in a Facebook post.
“My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland,” she said. “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever.”
Fletcher’s mother told CNN she wasn’t surprised that her son tried to intervene.
“Micah’s always done that,” she said. “He’s always been that way.”
According to the Oregonian, Best retired from the Army in 2012 after serving 23 years in the military, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2014, Best launched an unsuccessful bid for Clackamas County commissioner. He began working for the city in 2015.
“He was always the first person you would go to for help,” Kareen Perkins, his supervisor at the Bureau of Development Services, told the newspaper. “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.”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 28, 2017
Best is survived by his wife, three teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter.
“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,” city commissioner Chloe Eudaly said in a statement. “Rick worked for the city for a little more than two years and was a valued member of our Bureau of Development Services team. And as a veteran, he served our country with honor and distinction. He stood up for two young women and others he didn’t even know — all because he wanted to help.
“Losing a colleague is hard,” she added. “Losing someone under these circumstances makes it even worse. We are very saddened at the loss of Rick and we will remember him fondly as we move forward.”
Christian, 35, was arrested and is being held on suspicion of aggravated murder, attempted murder and intimidation — the state equivalent of a hate crime. He is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Tuesday.