Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, of southeast Portland were both killed in Friday’s attack. Best died at the scene and Namkai Meche died at the hospital. The Oregon State Medical Examiner is conducting autopsies on Best and Namkai Meche on Sunday, according to the police.
The victim who was injured in the attack has been identified as Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, also of southeast Portland. He remains in a Portland hospital being treated for serious but not believed to be life-threatening injuries, according to the police.
The victims had intervened to stop a man who was allegedly directing slurs at two teenaged girls who witnesses described as Muslim, Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson told CNN. According to one of the girls’ mothers, one of them was wearing a hijab.
“In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people he was yelling at and they were attacked viciously by the suspect,” Simpson said, according to KOIN 6 News.
Lieutenant Chad Gaidos confirmed to PEOPLE on Saturday that suspect Jeremy J. Christian is in custody for charges of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree and felon in possession of a weapon.
Homicide detectives are continuing to investigate the circumstances leading to the violent attack, according to police. Detectives will extensively examine the background of Christian, including the “information publicly available about the suspect’s extremist ideology,” according to police.
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Namkai Meche’s mother, Asha Deliverance, posted a photo of her son on Facebook, praising his bravery.
“Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, My dear baby boy passed on yesterday while protecting two young Muslim girls from a racist man on the train in Portland. He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star I love you forever,” she wrote on Saturday.
His family released a statement on Saturday, according to The Oregonian.
“In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward. He will live in our hearts forever as the just, brave, loving, hilarious and beautiful soul he was. We ask that in honor of his memory, we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change. We choose love. Safe journey Taliesin. We love you,” part of the statement read.
Best, the other slain victim, was a city employee, army veteran, and father of four, according to The Oregonian. His supervisor at the Bureau of Development Services, Kareen Perkins, told the outlet that Best was a dedicated and well-liked employee.
“He was always the first person you would go to for help,” she said. “I’ve talked to most of his coworkers today, and several of them said it’s just like Rick to step in and help somebody out.”
And Fletcher, the survivor of the attack and a student at Portland State University, had won a 2013 poetry competition with a poem condemning prejudices faced by Muslims, according to The Oregonian. His performance is available on YouTube.
According to the newspaper, Fletcher shared a poem after the attack on social media along with a photo of himself in a hospital bed. The reported poem read:
“I, am alive,
. I spat in the eye of hate and lived.
This is what we must do for one another
We must live for one another
We must fight for one Mother
We must die in the name dfreedome if we have
to. Luckily it’s not my turn today.”
The alleged stabbings occurred at the start of Ramadan — which began on Friday — which is a monthlong Muslim holy period of prayer, fasting and increased attention to charity.