PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jurors in the Jeremy Christian MAX attack trial heard from witnesses in the morning of the third day of testimony but took a tour of an identical MAX train Thursday afternoon.
The witnesses included the first officer on scene, passengers on the train, the MAX train operator and the aunt of one of the victims.
Charles Button, now a certified nursing assistant, was attending PSU in May 2017. When he testified Thursday, he brought a college notebook from that time period with him to the witness stand. At the urging of his family, he wrote down his memories of the MAX attack two days after it happened to help him remember it more clearly.
Button told the jury he heard screaming, saw a bald man stumble forward and noticed “blood was thrown across the car.”
He referred to his notebook numerous times, quoting directly from it as he described the rant he said he heard on the train that day: illegal immigrants not paying taxes and, at one point, the statement: “You’re all ISIS. You’re all un-American and I don’t care.”
Button said he was starting to “gather himself up” when he heard a gasp from the train.
“I heard the same voice that had been ranting. It became very precise … it said, ‘Do that again. I dare you!'”
Button said he tried to see what was going on, heard another gasp, and saw several people run past him as they started pulling up to the station. He said he heard a woman scream, “He’s stabbing people. He’s stabbing people.”
Button recalls seeing a bald man — Ricky Best — stumble forward, clutching his neck. He slipped, let his hand off and “blood was thrown across the car it was on the window, on the seats, and then he collapsed onto the floor.”
Button helped apply pressure to Ricky Best’s wounds: ” I was covered in blood…I just felt like I had let him down.”
Button said he rushed forward and applied his Centennial High School wrestling t-shirt to the wound.
In cross examination, the defense asked Button if he remembered the rant including statements about Asians. He consulted his notebook, but said he did not remember that.
Police officer at the scene
Portland Police officer Rehanna Kerridge, the first officer to arrive at the platform after the attack, then took the stand.
She described how she tried to assess the scene when she arrived. At first, it didn’t seem like anything was wrong.
“As soon as I stepped inside the train, there’s just massive amounts of blood, unfathomable amounts of blood on the floor starting to leak out.”
Officer Kerridge testified in more than 7 years on the job, she has never seen a scene like this.
“It seemed calm-ish,” she said. Then she saw Micah Fletcher outside the train. She left him in the care of bystanders and looked for other victims.
She found Ricky Best first, then Taliesin Namkai-Meche whom she described as breathing in agony.
“(It’s) only a sound you hear when someone’s about to die.”
At the end of her testimony, the prosecution asked about the condition of her uniform after the incident.
“I ended up throwing my boots away because they were saturated with blood,” Officer Kerridge said.
‘Auntie, I’m very distracted’
At the time of the attack, Taliesin Namkai-Meche was on his cellphone talking with his aunt, Beatrix Therese VanOlphen, as she sat on her front porch in North Carolina. She testified about the last moments of her nephew’s life.
VanOlphen said she could hear shouting in the background and noticed Taliesin was distracted.
“He couldn’t really focus on the conversation because of the commotion on the train,” she said. The shouting dissipated, she said, but then she heard other people yelling “Shut up!”
“Auntie, I’m very distracted. Let me call you back later when I get home,” VanOlphen testified Taliesin said. “I said OK, Tilly, but please don’t get involved. It could be a dangerous situation. … Maybe you could film it or videotape it with your phone and send it to the police. He said OK, and I said ‘Don’t get involved,’ and he said, ‘OK, I won’t.”
Then, she testified, “He said, ‘I love you so much. I’ll call you back later.’ He did not call me back and I never spoke to him again.”
The MAX Train operator
For 12 years, Jeffrey Quintana has been operating a MAX train for TriMet. He was the operator of the Green Line train on May 26, 2017 and knew there was a disturbance on the train, but didn’t know exactly what. His rail controller told him to “take a peek at what’s going on” when he got to the Hollywood Transit Center.
Quintana opened the door and saw a crowd near the back of the train. Somebody told him someone got stabbed.
“I immediately closed the door, locked it and then I called my rail controller,” Quintana said. “I was kind of fearing for my life because I don’t have no kind of defense, I don’t have no kind of training defense against a knife.”
He stayed in the cab until police arrived.
Under cross-examination, he said he could hear an argument but not in detail because of the noise in the cab. He was also asked whether he heard the ringing or saw the flashing that is supposed to happen when someone on the train uses the call button. He said he didn’t recall seeing or hearing anything.
The defense asked Judge Cheryl Albrecht to keep Quintana available as a witness, possibly later in the trial.
Tour of a MAX train
Thursday afternoon, jurors toured an identical train car to the one on which the attack occurred. Albrecht ruled jurors could not tour the exact car where the attack happened as prosecutors originally requested, though.
Judge Albrecht also ruled earlier this month that Christian cannot accompany jurors on the tour because the risk to his life or to the safety of others nearby would be increased if he were allowed to attend.
Judge Albrecht noted in her ruling the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has reported numerous threats to Christian’s life during the time he has spent incarcerated. She believes having Christian present at the tour would increase media coverage, which would in turn “exacerbate the likelihood of these threats.”
Albrecht also wrote that Christian “does not have a fundamental right to be present as long as the nature of the view is a ‘bare inspection, where counsel are permitted, and when there are no statements or evidence other than pointing out essential features.’”
Charges against Jeremy Christian
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.
KOIN 6 News will be in the courtroom each day of the trial.
This story will be updated.