The family of Taliesin Namkai-Meche, one of the victims of the 2017 MAX train stabbing, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Portland TriMet and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), alleging that both agencies had evidence of Jeremy Christian’s violent behavior before the May 2017 attack, but didn’t do enough to prevent it.
Namkai-Meche, Rick Best, and Micah Fletcher were attempting to intervene as Christian was yelling racist and xenophobic language at two black teenage girls on the train. Namkai-Meche and Best were killed, and Fletcher was seriously injured.
The lawsuit claims multiple attempts to alert TriMet and PPB to Christian were made in the days preceding the attack. The suit cites independent reporting about the story of Demetria Hester, a passenger on the train the day before the fatal May 2017 attack.
Hester claims she was on the train with Christian while he was yelling and making threats, and threatened her personally when she tried to tell him to stop. Hester, an African-American woman, says she always sits right behind the conductor with a can of mace, for her safety. She tried to get the attention of the conductor, who she says ignored he multiple times.
Hester says that as she left the train she was assaulted by Christian, who threw a full sports drink bottle at her face, cutting her above the eye. She responded by spraying him in the face with mace and kicking him in the groin. When a PPB officer arrived, Christian was still present, washing his face. The officer asked Hester for her ID, ignoring both she and a TriMet officer pointing out Christian was the assailant.
“No, I asked him, he had nothing to do with it,” Hester claims the officer said.
According to Hester, the PPB officer only believed Christian was the assailant after a second TriMet officer arrived to confirm Hester’s story. By then, Christian was gone, and officers called in to search did not find him.
The PPB disputes Hester’s claims, saying the officer reported asking her twice whether or not Christian assaulted her and that Hester said no both times.
Namkai-Meche’s family is seeking $10.1 million in damages.
By Ian MacRonald