PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The second day of testimony in the MAX attack trial of Jeremy Christian was filled with witnesses sharing gripping accounts and chilling videos of the events on that Green Line train in the late afternoon of May 26, 2017.
The testimony included people on the MAX train and the Hollywood Transit Center platform when Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best were stabbed to death and Micah Fletcher was seriously wounded.
Some of the most chilling video came from Ana Rivera, who captured several minutes of video before, during, and after the attack. Rivera testified through an interpreter Wednesday afternoon.
She was heading home on the train from work and heard “a person saying many things, words regarding discrimination.” She said this was an unusual occurrence in her almost four years riding the train.
At one point, she said the two young girls who felt targeted by Christian — Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum — got up and sat near her. Rivera said she started recording video because she felt afraid because of what Christian was saying and took a video as evidence.
Prosecutors played the videos, which lasted about 5 minutes. In the first, a voice identified as Christian yells about circumcision and other topics. A girl’s voice near the camera said, “I’ve never experienced this before.”
The video appears to show Fletcher shove Christian twice, and then Christian appears to strike him in the neck. Someone screams, “Somebody help me!”
Rivera also shot some video through the train window. It appears to show Christian walking away from the train on the platform holding a knife and bag.
In the aftermath of the attack, another video shows one person on the ground near the train doors and a woman’s voice is heard. Rivera said that voice was hers, praying.
Asked why she felt intimidated before the fight even began, Rivera said, “Because I am a woman of color.”
Jeremy Christian’s seat mate
Amee Pacheco was sitting on the MAX that afternoon when Christian got on and sat next to her. He was having a normal-sounding cell phone conversation and bumped her a little when he got on, she said.
When a seat across the aisle opened up later, he moved there, Pacheco said. She was behind a wall, so she could not see Mohamed or Mangum.
Around that time, she said Christian pulled a book out of his bag, held it up, and started yelling.
“He said a lot of things. I don’t really remember all of them,” she testified. “I think that maybe one of the next things was that if we wanted to know his plan for world peace.”
The prosecution asked if anyone took him up on that. Pacheco said no, mostly people were trying to ignore him.
The 6-foot-4 Marine
Shawn Forde took the stand at the end of testimony on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4 Marine veteran, who was calm during his testimony, is credited with shielding the 2 teens during Christian’s initial rant.
He said he had earbuds in listening to music that afternoon, but noted he doesn’t have it too loud. Forde, who is black, said he wants to be aware of people because “I’m in the whitest city in the whitest state.”
The Brooklyn, New York native said he’s “used to people being a little extra on the train” but when he heard yelling he pulled one earbud out and looked at the teens and realized it was directed at them.
Forde, who was about 40 at the time, is a father. He said he moved forward to shield the girls and “get him to focus on me rather than those two girls.”
Many times during his testimony Forde noted how Christian was talking about freedom of speech. Getting fed up, Forde said he told Christian he was right, but “I also have the freedom to ignore you.”
Around this time he started pushing the door button, hoping to exit.
“I’ve watched people in the past amp themselves up for something and that’s what it seemed like he was doing,” Forde said.
Forde said the train was starting to slow down when Micah Fletcher approached, grabbing Christian and trying to push him off the train.
“… he tries to go back at Micah and then Micah shoves him again … at that point I remember the defendant saying to Micah, ‘Push me again!'”
The prosecution asked Forde if that was a warning or a challenge.
“That’s definitely a challenge,” Forde replied.
Fletcher went to grab Christian again and was stabbed in the neck. Forde said Fletcher got off the train screaming for help and he followed.
“I initially thought once the defendant had stabbed Micah, he was coming for me,” Forde said. “He’d engaged with me so long, I thought I was gonna be the next one.”
On the platform at the Hollywood Transit Center, Forde said he encountered Christian again. Forde said he was preparing for an attack.
The prosecutor said Forde was “a Marine, a tough guy.
“I’m not a tough guy,” he said.
Forde said Christian pointed a knife at him, but never made physical contact.
During cross examination, the defense mused that as long as no one was getting in Christian’s space, the incident was just verbal. Forde said yes, but the speech wasn’t “a conversation that people want to have.”
Forde appeared to scoff at the notion that Christian’s rant was “offensive.”
“It was violent. It was threatening. It was more than that. It was more than just offensive.”
The medic’s testimony
The Army medic, Morgan Noonan, said he had interacted with Ricky Best on previous train rides, recognizing him as a fellow veteran. Noonan saw Best on the train the afternoon of the 2017 attack.
Generally, he testified, he stands with the train door to his back, able to see both ends of the train, entrances and exits. He also likes to have his headphones on, not playing anything, as a way to keep people from engaging with him. He likes the quiet.
But that day, he said he noticed a “lot of yelling, mostly racist comments mixed with political statements, provocative behavior. Things you would say if you wanted to provoke a response.”
“I have a pretty diverse relationship pool and if you were to approach some of the men I served with with that attitude, you would be opening up a can of worms,” he said.
Noonan said Christian’s confidence suggested he might have “an ace” up his sleeves.
Noonan said he was hoping Ricky Best wouldn’t walk toward the end of the train and started to explain some understanding the two had. The defense objected several times to Noonan’s testimony relating to state of mind.
Prosecutors began asking Noonan about another passenger — Namkai-Meche — walking up. Noonan began to describe him as being on a cellphone, seeming happy, looked very nice with a great smile, handsome.
Again, the defense objected. Then Noonan said, dryly, “He was a human being standing there,” prompting laughs from those in the courtroom.
Noonan described how the incident escalated, with Namkai-Meche’s cellphone being knocked down. When the fighting began, Noonan described it as “mayhem.”
Prosecutors asked if he ever saw Best fighting with Christian. He answered no.
At one point while describing the scene, he said Ricky Best was hyperventilating forcefully and “the color was leaving his body.”
“Waves of his blood were running down the aisle towards me,” Noonan said. Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai Meche “were bleeding profusely…the same bleeding when a soldier gets shot or maimed.”
When the defense got their chance to question Noonan, they asked a lot about the specific things he claimed Christian was saying about black people, gays, and Muslims. Noonan said he did not hear Christian say, “Hey, you white guys sitting over there.”
The defense also asked if Christian seemed to be trying to stir the pot and provoke a reaction.
“It’s my impression that he was baiting people to make physical contact with them,” Noonan replied.
The defense also asked Noonan about different statements he had given to law enforcement after the incident, one to an officer and another, recorded, to a detective. Those statements became a point of contention between the sides later, when Gresham PD Transit Officer Jason Young took the stand.
Standing on the platform
Marcus Knipe testified he was heading to the Rose Festival with his family and neighbors on May 26, 2017 when Micah Fletcher came off the Green Line train.
“I just saw Micah coming off the train, pleading for help, and just a natural reaction jumped into the situation to do the best that I could to help with his wound,” Knipe testified.
”When the Green Line Clackamas MAX train showed up I heard some screaming before the doors opened and when the doors opened there was even more screaming and people were rushing off … and that’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Fletcher had just been stabbed in the neck as had Taliesin Namkai-Mecher and Ricky Best, who died on the train.
Knipe said Micah Fletcher came stumbling off the train and the pair locked eyes. Knipe saw him clutching his neck.
A woman gave Knipe her child’s pink jacket and he pressed it on the wound. She also gave him a baby blanket to try to staunch the blood flow.
Knipe said he saw Christian come off the train with a bloody knife and saw him “body check” another passenger, Shawn Forde, threaten him, and then run off.
Knipe told Fletcher to match his breathing and calm down. Fletcher wanted to call his mother. Knipe told him not to tell her how severe the injury was. He chuckles at what came next: Fletcher told his mom to call his job and tell them he wouldn’t be in that day.
“I found it kind of funny that he was worried about being late to his job, or missing a day at his job.”
Knipe stayed with Fletcher for what felt like 10-15 minutes until first responders showed up and took him off on a stretcher.
Prosecutor Don Rees noted this happened in Knipe’s civilian life and asked if it was traumatic. Knipe said it was non-traumatic, but he does think about it “once in a while when somebody asks me about it and I also thought about it … on the one year anniversary …”
Gresham Transit Officer
Gresham PD Transit Officer Jason Young was the 5th witness to testify Wednesday.
When he got to the train, he found Noonan and a woman trying to help Taliesin Namkai-Meche. Officer Young said Namkai-Meche was moving around at first and still appeared to be alive when he was taken away on a stretcher.
Later, Young took a statement from Noonan. In cross examination, the defense started to ask Young about that report. Attorney Greg Scholl asked if Noonan said anything about Christian’s statements that was not included in Young’s report.
The prosecution objected, and eventually the judge had the jury leave while they hashed it out. The defense argued that Noonan’s testimony changed since the time of the initial police report and now provided a lot more detail.
When the jury was brought back in, Scholl asked Young if Noonan said anything beyond. The suspect had been yelling about religion and other things, yelled that he could say what he wanted because it was America, and appeared to be upset by “just about everything.”
Young couldn’t recall anything else and agreed that, if anything else had been said, he would have included it in his report.
The prosecution countered this questioning by asking Young if he anticipated detectives following up in greater detail with witnesses. He said yes, that his goal is to get brief statements and contact information of witnesses.
Sisters-in-law on the train
The other two witnesses called this morning were Amy Farrara and Jessica Krohn. They are sisters-in-law and were working downtown the day of the attack.
They were riding home on the green line when Farrara says she started to hear yelling. Swear words, political comments, Donald Trump’s name, and “something about free speech.”
She started to take video, which the prosecution played. In it, you can see Namkai-Meche on his cell phone. But the recording stops abruptly.
Prosecutors asked why Farrara stopped recording. She said she sunk down in the seat to hide because, “I thought a gun was gonna go off.”
Prosecutor Jeffrey Howes asked Farrara to describe the fighting. She said she saw people crowded together and “arms swinging.”
“I thought they were punching and fighting and then I noticed liquid on the side of the train, on the wall … I thought it was liquid at the time … Why is there water on the train? Somebody’s water bottle? I realized later it was blood on the train,” she said.
“It looked like it was dripping or raining kind of. I think it was a shock thing to realize it was blood … I think that’s when I realized it wasn’t punching it was stabbing.”
She went on to describe how the guy “on the cell phone” (Namkai-Meche) walked back toward her, covered in blood, and fell. When Farrara got off the train she said she saw “the younger gentleman that survived” (Fletcher) being helped by bystanders.
During cross examination, the defense said that in her statement, Farrara said it looked like they were trying to push Christian off the train. She confirmed that. The defense left it at that.
The prosecution then asked Farrara one more thing: Whether her path was unobstructed when she got off the train.
She said no, I had to step over and then stopped, visibly emotional. Prosecutor Howes filled in the blank. Mr. Namkai-Meche.
Her sister-in-law Jessica Krohn took the stand next. She mentioned that “you see a lot of crazy things on the MAX” but not like that day. She started recording when Farrara stopped because “it felt like one of those moments.”
She too expected a gun to possibly come out. She said she heard what sounded like punching, but it became clear it was more than that.
“There was blood everywhere,” Krohn said.
“There were people walking toward me with their hands like this,” she put her hands over her throat. “And blood was coming out from between their fingers.”
Christian has pleaded not guilty to these 12 charges: Two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, three counts of second-degree intimidation, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of menacing.
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