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Suspect In Portland Attack Set To Appear In Court

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A man accused of killing two people in Portland, Ore. appears in court today. The suspect is the man who was shouting anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage girls on a commuter train. Three other passengers tried to intervene, and police say Jeremy Christian took out a knife, killed two of them and injured the third. Here's Molly Solomon from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

MOLLY SOLOMON, BYLINE: Thirty-five-year-old Jeremy Christian is facing multiple counts of murder, being a felon in possession of a weapon and intimidation charges, Oregon's equivalent of a hate crime. Police arrested Christian shortly after Friday's attack. He's currently being held without bail until his arraignment. The three men came to the defense of two teenagers being targeted by an anti-Muslim rant.

One of the young women is black and the other was Muslim and was wearing a hijab. Portland police are taking the lead on the investigation, including a look at Christian's social media a history of extremist beliefs. They're also getting assistance from the U.S. attorney's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Special Agent in charge Loren Cannon says it's still too early to determine if this was an act of domestic terrorism or meets the standards of a federal hate crime.

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LOREN CANNON: However, in the coming days, the FBI, the Portland Police Bureau and all prosecutors that are here today will work together to share information, leverage resources and make determinations about the future criminal charges.

SOLOMON: Portlanders held two vigils over the weekend to remember the men who sacrificed their lives, fifty-three-year-old Ricky Best, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran and City of Portland employee and 23-year-old Taliesin Namkai-Meche, a recent Reed College graduate just starting a career in economics.

On the lawn outside the Hollywood transit center near the spot where the killings occurred, participants lit candles and stacked flowers and photos of the victims. Many in the crowd wept as friends and family stood up to remember and thank the men for standing up for the two girls. Sharon Maxwell lives in the neighborhood.

SHARON MAXWELL: I'm here tonight because they are heroes. These men were heroes. They have courage.

(APPLAUSE)

MAXWELL: The killings have drawn national attention and rocked Portland, a city with an at times ugly racial history. The election of Donald Trump has led to a series of protests and counter-protests, including one last month at which Christian the man arrested in Friday's stabbings was seen shouting white power slogans and giving Nazi salutes. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said that kind of hate speech would not be tolerated in Oregon.

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TED WHEELER: These two men died heroes as a result of a horrific act of racist violence.

SOLOMON: After days of silence on the attack, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning that the violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. For NPR News, I'm Molly Solomon in Portland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.