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Witnesses Describe Arrest Of Jeremy Christian After TriMet Attacks

The Big Picture

The prosecution continued its case against Jeremy Christian Monday morning. Christian is accused of killing two people and injuring a third in a stabbing attack on a Portland MAX light rail train in May 2017. 

Last week, witnesses said Christian was shouting racist comments while two black teenage girls — Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum — were nearby on the train. Mohamed is Muslim and was wearing a hijab. 

Christian is also accused of harassing and assaulting Demetria Hester, an African American woman, on a MAX train the day prior.

He faces a dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder and intimidation.

The Highlights (What Happened Monday)

UPDATE (3:45 p.m. PT)Continuing their case Monday, prosecutors called witnesses who advanced the timeline of the attacks. 

The prosecution called seven witnesses throughout the afternoon, including Portland police officers who responded to the scene where Christian was apprehended, and a man who was riding the MAX train the day of the stabbings.

“It looked like a punch to me. I didn’t know there was a knife until I saw the blood everywhere,” said Garrett Chase Robinson, a witness to the stabbings. 

“I was terrified and I was anxious. I kept moving between the platform and the train trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Robinson said. “I don’t have any sort of medical training.”

Robinson said the victims of the attack, Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, and the survivor, Micah Fletcher, were all being helped by other people at the scene, so Robinson decided to follow Christian. 

He ran across the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 84 and eventually found Christian a few feet onto a trail that follows the interstate. At that point Robinson was with a group of about four other people trying to locate Christian, including Alvin Hall, who testified last week. 

Christian allegedly brandished his knife at the group and continued down the trail. Robinson said the group followed and the trail eventually ended near the Providence Medical Center. 

Robinson recorded a video of Christian at the medical center as police arrived. In the video, Christian continued to yell, unintelligibly, while pacing near police vehicles. The video shows Christian walking down the street in front of the medical center and police continuing to slowly pursue him in their vehicles.

The video cuts off. Robinson said police told him and others to leave the area at that point.

Robinson said later that night he made a recording of himself, going over the details of what he saw. He said he had reached out to police but could not reach anyone to make a statement.

The prosecution called Portland police officers who had arrived at the Providence Medical Center, including officer Edward Johnson and Sergeant Brad Kula. 

Johnson said when he arrived, officers were attempting to deescalate the situation, keeping a distance from Christian, who was still holding his knife. 

Johnson, a black man, said he was holding a stun gun, which Christian could see.

“He kept asking if I was going to 'Tase' him,” Johnson said. “‘You going to Tase me, n? I see you holding your Taser,’” Johnson said Christian yelled at him.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees asked Johnson how he knew the comment was directed at him. “I was the only African American there,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Christian told the officers that they “were going to have to shoot him.”

Kula said he was armed, holding his rifle and giving Christian orders to put down his knife.

“He said, I better shoot him because he was not going to drop the knife and get on the ground,” Sergeant Kula said. 

Kula also said Christian told the officers they couldn’t hurt him because he had been shot by police in the face before.

Rees asked Kula how close he was to shooting Christian. 

“I was prepared to shoot him,” Kula said. “He was armed with a knife and he was not complying to put the knife down. He was upset and angry and pretty animated.”

He continued: “There were a few times the safety was off my rifle and my finger was on the trigger.”

Rees also asked Kula if he believed at that moment that Christian was a threat to him and others. Kula said, “Yes.” 

Kula and Johnson said Christian began to walk away. They and other officers followed.

Johnson attempted to use his stun gun on Christian, but only one of the two prongs hit Christian, producing little apparent effect.

Johnson said Christian was eventually intercepted by another police car. 

Johnson and Kula described Christian throwing his knife, which hit one of the police vehicles; officers then took Christian into custody. 

Rees stated that in police reports, officers are required to fill out boxes that relate to perceived mental illness. 

Johnson said he did not believe Christian was mentally ill.

Portland Police officer Andrew Jenson also responded to the scene. When Christian was arrested, he was placed into Jenson’s car. 

After Christian was in Jenson’s car, Jenson said Christian said: “I hope those motherfuckers are dead. Fuck them. I can rest in peace as long as they’re all dead.”

Jenson said Christian also yelled at him: “You’re a Jew – you’re the worst piece of humanity” and spat in the back of the police car. 

After being asked by one of Christian’s defense attorneys, Greg Scholl, both Jenson and Kula said they wrote “unknown” as to whether Christian was mentally ill in their police reports.

PPB detective Rachel Baer, then an officer, was the one who transported Christian to the police bureau’s central precinct that day. She was accompanied by Officer Johnson.

She was the last witness Monday.

Baer responded to the Providence Medical Center in a “MAV vehicle” — a vehicle that has audio recording, as well as external and internal cameras. 

The prosecution played a more than 20-minute video from Christian’s transport, including a portion, which was only audio, from when hospital staff was checking out Christian before he was taken into the vehicle.

Baer was with Christian in the emergency room at Providence when he was examined by medical staff. His voice was picked up by a lapel mic she was wearing. 

In the audio, Christian is yelling at hospital staff, saying things like: “You can all die, just like the motherf I stabbed in the neck.”

Baer said Christian attempted to spit on one of the hospital employees when he was being discharged. 

On his car ride to the precinct, Christian yells the n-word at Johnson multiple times, saying things like: “Be a good slave, n.”

On the recording, Christian continues the rest of the ride yelling about free speech, being a patriot and disparaging monotheistic religions.

The defense had no cross-examination questions for Baer.

Go Deeper

Powerful Evidence Raises Questions About Legal Approaches To MAX Murder Trial

Friends, Experts Say Lack Of Mental Health Care Made Portland 2017 MAX Stabbings More Likely

Communities Of Color Still Reeling From 2017 Portland MAX Attack

<p>Portland Police officer Edward Johnson testifies during day five, February 3, 2020, of testimony in the trial of Jeremy Christian for the stabbings of three people on&nbsp;a MAX train in May 2017.&nbsp;</p>

Brooke Herbert


Portland Police officer Edward Johnson testifies during day five, February 3, 2020, of testimony in the trial of Jeremy Christian for the stabbings of three people on a MAX train in May 2017. 

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell, Conrad Wilson