As police investigate Jeremy Christian, the man charged with killing two men and wounding another on a MAX train, for yet another stabbing, it increasingly appears he was a loner rather than part of an organized network of white supremacists.
On Friday, the Tribune first reported that Christian is suspected of stabbing a man near the downtown Voodoo Doughnut in January. Other newspapers have revealed additional aspects of what appears to be a descent into increasingly aggressive and antisocial behavior.
In a city that used to be notorious for its skinhead gangs, Christian's violence coupled with his embrace of white supremacist ideology immediately triggered alarm bells with law enforcement, said Randy Blazak, a sociologist and activist with the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, who has tracked skinheads in Portland since the 1990s. That's because Christian frequently used the term Vinland, a staple of Nordic-based white supremacist ideology, raising the question of whether he represented a new, western outpost of the Vinlanders Social Club, a group that formed in the Midwest more than a decade ago.
Blazak, who has met with the FBI and police since Christian allegedly killed two men and stabbed another on TriMet on May 26, says all indications are that Christian was a "lone wolf," however.
"From what I can tell, he's not connected to anybody," Blazak said.
But, he added, that doesn't mean people should relax. In the old days, Blazak and other anti-hate activists could stake out meetings of groups like Volksfront, then the major white supremacist organization in Portland, to track their membership and activities.
Now, however, people can absorb the hatred online, making white supremacist ideology a "leaderless" movement and harder to combat, Blazak said: "The lone wolf thing ultimately is much more frightening."
For Blazak, the Nordic rune tattoos that Christian bears point to prison, where Christian spent many years after an armed robbery, as the origin of his white supremacist views. Oregon prisons have spawned a number of white supremacist gangs, such as European Kindred — a gang that eventually became the target of a racketeering case spearheaded by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The Oregonian on Sunday detailed Christian's youth and seemingly rudderless existence selling comic books when not in prison, becoming increasingly aggressive in recent months.
Leaving the structured existence of prison to make one's way in a world filled with shades of gray is difficult for many ex-cons, Blazak says. Meanwhile, stabbing people in the neck is a classic "prison move," he said.
Because of the pending investigation and charges, police and other officials are not providing details on two additional violent episodes allegedly involving Christian that have come to light.
On Friday, Portland police spokesman Chris Burley confirmed that Christian is believed to have stabbed someone outside the downtown Voodoo Doughnut in January.
On Friday, Jan. 27, police were called at 5:15 a.m. to a fight between men, who were believed to be homeless, outside the donut shop, according to accounts in The Oregonian and by KPTV. A 40-year-old man stabbed in the back declined to cooperate when police arrived, and the suspect had fled. The injury was considered non-life-threatening, and the victim's name and ethnicity have not been released.
Christian is also believed to have committed another attack on TriMet the day before the May 26 murders. He has been charged with second-degree assault and intimidation of a 43-year-old African American woman in the May 25 incident, and later that night threatened to stab a TriMet light rail operator and others, according to media reports.
The woman reportedly pepper-sprayed Christian at about 11:30 p.m. after he said racial slurs and threw a Gatorade bottle at her.
As part of the 15-count indictment, prosecutors have charged Christian with two counts of aggravated murder — a charge that makes it a death penalty case. Last week they also filed a notice of their intent to seek an upward departure from the presumptive sentencing guidelines on all the counts against him, citing the probability of future violence, lack of remorse, and a "callous disregard for the value of human life."