According to police and witnesses, Namkai-Meche was one of three men who were allegedly stabbed by 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian.
Authorities said that along with 21-year-old Micah Fletcher and Rick Best, 53, Namkai-Meche tried to intervene Friday afternoon as Christian verbally harassed two teenage girls, one who was black and one who was wearing a hijab, with “hate speech.”
Christian is accused of stabbing all three in the neck and was arrested soon after; he remains in custody on murder charges and has not yet entered a plea.
“He’s my baby brother, and he’s very much a hero,” Vajra Alaya Maitreya tells PEOPLE of Namkai-Meche. “But it wasn’t about being a hero, it was about being a human. That is what it meant to be a human: to make sure everyone around him felt safe.”
At a candlelight vigil the day after the attack, Rachel Macy, who was riding the same MAX train where the altercation occurred, walked up Namkai-Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance, and told her that she was with him before he passed.
“The last words that she said he said were ‘just tell everybody on this train that I love him,’ ” Maitreya recalls. “I really feel like that sums up his whole spirit. He felt so much of the weight of the environment and the weight of all the crazy prejudice and bigotry in the world.”
“It was hard for none of us to be there, and we still have so little information,” Maitreya says. “But it was really nice for us to know that it seemed like he was being held by this community. That felt really beautiful for our family.”
Maitreya remembers her brother — who was one of nine children — as a brilliant man who did anything he put his mind to.
“He had this amazing, huge heart for everyone that was around him,” she says about her brother who was an environmental analyst and graduated from Reed college in 2016. “People were magnetized by him and he was always smiling and always sharing whatever he had. It didn’t matter what it was.”
Namkai-Meche’s sister says he recently bought his own home, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Even in his most serious moments, the “super tall, blond, smiley boy” had a joyful and magical spirit.
“There is so much going on and there are so many people standing up for what they believe in and it’s amazing that this story is getting so much coverage,” Maitreya says. “There are so many other families who are suffering similar losses that are maybe not in the media. Our family and my brother is with them. I hope that we can all fight for the cause in a loving, peaceful way. That’s what he wanted.”
His professor at Reed College, Noelwah Netusil, remembers him as soft-spoken, intelligent and hard-working, and committed to social justice issues.
He says, “I am richer for having known him and privileged to have been his professor.”