Police in Portland, Oregon, arrested a man on Friday, George Tschaggeny, 51, accused of stealing a wedding ring and backpack from Ricky Best, 53, as he lay dying aboard a commuter train. Best, an Army veteran, was one of the three stabbing victims who attempted to stop another man, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, from yelling anti-Muslim slurs at two African-American teenage girls aboard the commuter train last week in Portland. Best, and one of the other stabbing victims, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, lost their lives when Christian, who was arrested shortly after the brutal attack, allegedly stabbed them.
Video footage of the attack also showed Tschaggeny allegedly stealing Best’s wedding ring and other belongings as the Army veteran and father of four lay dying aboard the train. CNN reported that, according to Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson, Tschaggeny had Best’s wedding ring on his finger when police arrested him underneath an overpass. George Tschaggeny was with a small camp of homeless people when he was arrested. According to Reuters, the police were acting on a tip by an employee who worked at a local Domino Pizza’s restaurant.
Tschaggeny has been charged with committing second-degree corpse abuse, “tampering with physical evidence” and second-degree theft. Simpson stated that video evidence taken of the stabbings and their aftermath on the train “supports the charges” related to Tschaggeny’s alleged theft of Best’s wedding ring and backpack.
Sgt. Simpson said that a military-style, camouflage wallet Best had on him at the time he and Namkai-Meche were stabbed is still missing. He called the theft of Best’s belongings “completely heartless.” Simpson further described the theft as being “unconscionable.” According to Reuters, Best’s family hoped to recover phone numbers that he had kept in the wallet.
A video released by the Portland Police Bureau showed the suspect, Tschaggeny, leaving the commuter train after the stabbings took place. In his right hand, authorities who studied the footage have said Tschaggeny was carrying the black backpack owned by Best. In his left hand was another backpack.
The police in Portland said they did not know yet if that backpack belonged to the suspect. NBC News reported that besides the wedding ring Tschaggney allegedly stole, he had stolen Best’s “book bag,” though it looked like a backpack in the video footage.
After Christian got on the commuter train in Portland last Friday afternoon, he started insulting the two young African-American women and using anti-Muslim slurs. Witnesses and a police affidavit said that one of the woman was wearing a hajib, which is an Islamic headscarf. When a small group of male passengers approached Christian to try to get him to stop bothering the two women, the stabbing suspect allegedly slashed the throats of Namkai-Meche and Best. Best died on the scene and Namkai-Meche died at a local hospital.
Micah Fletcher, 21, was one of the other male passengers who tried to come to the defense of the two women. He was also stabbed and “was seriously injured” in the attack. He has been labelled as a hero for his efforts to aid the women when they were berated by Christian.
After the police arrested Christian, and was being transported in the back of a patrol car equipped with recording equipment, he made some shocking and incriminating remarks about the stabbings. He declared he was “happy” he had stabbed the two men who died in their necks. He added that he would say he hoped “they all die” and would say that “on the stand.”
The police have filed nine charges against Christian. Reuters reported that on Tuesday, he “was arraigned” on the charges. According to Reuters, while Christian was in court, he yelled out “Death to the enemies of America!” He added that he called his act of stabbing the three men and hurling ethnic and religious slurs towards the two African-American women was not an act of “terrorism,” but was rather an act of “patriotism.”
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said the attack was being investigated to determine if Christian will be charged with “a federal hate crime” or committing “terrorism.” According to Reuters, on Monday, President Trump tweeted about the heroic actions of the three men who were stabbed on the train in Portland, writing that they had stood up “to hate and intolerance.”
Christian faces two counts of intimidation, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon, first-degree assault, attempted aggravated murder, and two counts of aggravated murder. In Oregon, the maximum penalty a charge of aggravated murder carries is the death sentence, though it has been over twenty years since the state has executed a prisoner.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Portland Police Bureau