PORTLAND, Ore. — The family of light-rail train stabbing victim Taliesin Namkai-Meche has filed a $10.1 million lawsuit against TriMet and the Portland Police Bureau for failing to arrest and ban Jeremy Christian from the system before Namkai-Meche and another passenger were killed.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says TriMet and police had two opportunities to intervene to prevent the deaths of Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best in the 24 hours before the attack, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .
The two were stabbed in the neck on a MAX train pulling into Portland’s Hollywood transit station May 26, 2017.
The suit says Portland police didn’t arrest Christian after they were called to the Rose Quarter MAX station on May 25, 2017, based on a report by an African American woman who said she was riding a train when Christian threatened her life and exclaimed he wanted to kill all “Muslims, blacks, Jews.” The woman said Christian also threw a Gatorade bottle at her face, injuring her eye.
“The woman tried to alert Defendant TriMet’s train operator, pounding on the compartment door three times, but was ignored,” according to the lawsuit. “Once off the train, the woman found a Portland Police officer and/or a Transit Police officer and pointed out Mr. Christian, but the officer(s) failed to detain Mr. Christian, or investigate the incident further.”
The suit also says that same night, Christian boarded another train, ranted about people of various religions and threatened to stab anyone who tried to stop him. Another passenger caught the rant on video, according to the lawsuit.
“Passengers alerted Defendant TriMet’s train operator about Mr. Christian’s behavior, but the operator took no action,” the lawsuit says. “The train made several stops, but no TriMet Personnel, Portland Police officer or Transit Police officer boarded the train to deal with or remove Mr. Christian.”
The suit also claims TriMet and police knew that the railway between the Rose Quarter and Hollywood transit centers was “one of the most crime-ridden stretches of the light rail system” yet the agencies failed to devise and implement adequate security measures to better protect passengers.
TriMet spokeswoman Tia York declined comment because of the active litigation.
Representatives from police and the City Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately return requests for comment
Christian has pleaded not guilty to the aggravated murders of Namkai-Meche and Best, as well as the attempted aggravated murder of Micah Fletcher, 21, who survived a stab wound to the neck.
Police and prosecutors say the attack was motivated by bigotry. Christian was spouting racist and xenophobic comments and harassing two black teenage girls when other passengers intervened, police and witnesses said.
Christian’s trial is scheduled for January, and his attorneys have said they might argue that Christian was so affected by mental illness that he wasn’t in control of his actions.