A man who was yelling ‘anti-Muslim’ slurs at 2 young women on a light-rail train fatally slashed the throats of 2 men and injured a third person when they tried to intervene, police told. The suspect was arrested after he ran off the train at the Hollywood transit station in Portland, Oregon. Police have not released his or the victims’ names. The attacker was ‘yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti everything slurs’ before he turned his focus on the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, police Sgt Pete Simpson told. After the suspect attacked the victims, he reportedly told, ‘This is free America, I can do whatever I want’ one witness said. One victim was dead at scene and while another died at a hospital, Simpson told. The third person was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The attack happened on a MAX train as it headed east on Friday around 4:30 Pm. Evelin Hernandez, a 38 years old resident of Clackamas, Oregon, told she was on the train when the man began making racist remarks to the women. ‘[He] told, “Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here.” [He said he] doesn’t like Muslims, they’re criminals’ Evelin Hernandez said. When the two men stepped in and tried to protect other passengers on the train, the suspect slashed their throats, Simpson said. It wasn’t clear why the man was yelling. But the Portland Police department characterized the rant as ‘hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions’. ‘He was talking about a lot of different things, not just specifically anti-Muslim’  Simpson added. After the stabbings, the suspect said he was free to do what he wanted in America, witnesses told. He also reportedly said he was getting off at the next stop and that no one should follow him. Police don’t know if the suspect, described as a white man between the ages of 20 and 40, has mental health issues or whether was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at time. Simpson told the women understandably left the scene before police arrived, adding that authorities hoped to track them down to help fill in what happened. The 2 women were described by police as ‘possibly Muslim’, although Simpson told ‘We have not been able to find those girls to verify that.’

‘It’s horrific.There’s no other word to describe what happened today,’ Simpson said. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley wrote on his Twitter ‘Terrible tragedy on Portland’s Max Train. Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil.’  Portland’s Commissioner Chloe Eudaly issued a statement telling ‘This is an especially sad and disturbing incident. People lost their lives or were injured because they stood up to hate. We need to offer our heartfelt support to the two women and others who were targeted. The courage of the people who stood up for them is a reminder that we as a city need to stand together to denounce hate.’

The FBI also offered their assistance in the investigation, telling ‘At the core of the FBI’s mission is the belief that every person has the right to live, work and worship in this country without fear. Hate and bigotry have no place in our community, and we will not allow violence in the name of hate to go unanswered.’

Millions of Muslims marked the start of Ramadan on last Friday, a time of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. ‘Our thoughts are with the Muslim community. As something like this happens, this only instills fear in that community. We have already reached out previous to this incident to our Muslim community partners and the different imams about extra patrol during Ramadan. We want to reassure them that that will continue,’ Simpson said. MAX trains were halted for some hours after the incident and an investigation is ongoing.

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