Witnesses: Jeremy Christian made threats before, after stabbings on a Portland MAX train
The trial of accused MAX killer Jeremy Christian continued Friday as the prosecution called several more witnesses — notably Demetria Hester, the African-American woman he injured at a Yellow-Line MAX stop the night before the stabbings that left Ricky Best and Talesien Namkai-Meche dead and Micah Fletcher seriously injured.
In the downtown courtroom overseen by Judge Cheryl Albrecht, in which Christian faces a dozen charges including murder and attempted murder, Multnomah prosecutors used testimony from Hester and other witnesses to elicit several different anecdotes of Christian threatening people with death before and after the killings of May 26, 2017.
Prosecutors have charged Christian with hate-based intimidation over the incident with Hester.
Hester, a sous-chef, took the stand Friday morning and testified that Christian was saying racist and hateful things on her trip home on May 25, 2017. She said he described being a Nazi and said things about Jews, Christians and Muslims, and she told him repeatedly to shut up. That's when he began to threaten to kill her after she got off the train.
"You're about to get it, (expletive)," he said.
When both of them got off the train at Rose Quarter, two TriMet supervisors were waiting, having responded to reports of the disturbance on the train.
Christian threatened her again, Hester testified, saying she then fired a can of red-pepper spray in his direction.
"He said if I see you again I will kill you," Hester said.
After she sprayed Christian, he took a Gatorade bottle that he'd been drinking from, partly filled with an alcoholic beverage, and threw it into her right eye hard, from a short distance away — "…like a baseball, a bullet," she said, "to the point where I could feel my eye swelling up immediately."
Prosecutors then showed the jury photos of Hester's eye, visibly swollen and bruised, shortly after the altercation. Other witnesses said her eye also was bleeding.
Hester said she's had eye problems ever since."…it's sensitive to light and there's always an object (floating in her field of vision)," she said, as well as a constant "squiggly line."
Asked what happened later, she said, "TriMet sent me home on a 40-seat bus by myself."
"That even now still stings, right?" asked prosecutor Jeff Howes.
"Absolutely," she said.
As she was testifying, Christian, who sat facing her between two lawyers, shook his head several times as if denying her account. He did so when she said he threatened her physically several times.
Christian's defense lawyers also pointed out inconsistencies between her testimony and what she'd said in statements to the media and before the Oregon Legislature, when she testified on a hate-crimes bill last year.
Hester testified that the Portland police officer who responded to the incident was disrespectful and "treated me like I was the assailant."
The defense called Neal Glaske, the officer who responded, and he testified that he was respectful and courteous to Hester. He acknowledged that in his police report about the incident, he did not check the box intended to flag the report as a bias crime.
Other witnesses cite threats
Andrew Garcia, one of the TriMet supervisors who responded, confirmed Hester's account of being threatened.
Prosecutor Don Rees asked Garcia if he was certain Christian said "next time I see you, I'll kill you," Garcia responded "Yes, I remember. It was pretty loud."
The other TriMet supervisor who responded to the Rose Quarter station that night, Brad Hanson, said he approached Christian after he was maced, while Christian was kneeling down, "messing around in his backpack."
Hanson asked if Christian had been involved in the altercation with Hester, and he responded "Get away from me or I'll stab you. I'll stab you."
"So I backed off," Hanson said.
Another witness was Alvin James Hall, a military veteran, who described following Christian on May 26, 2017, after Christian, according to video and eyewitnesses, stabbed the three men.
Hall said he suddenly realized he had come upon Christian near a tree, where Christian was using a bottle of soda to wash blood off his knife. Christian looked directly at him and said, "Are you a (expletive) snitch? Do you want some of this?"
Christian the held up his knife and pointed it at him, Hall said.
"I'm going to have to do to you what I did to those other guys," Hall recalled Christian saying.
Trial will resume on Monday morning as Christian's lawyers will begin calling witnesses for the defense.
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