I shook the alleged killer's filthy hand 28 days ago. Mine feels tainted now, as though I somehow sanctioned his reported act, though I was only trying to get some information out of him.
He had just marched through Montavilla Park chanting "nigger" and throwing fascist salutes, wearing an American Revolutionary War flag like a cape.
It was this act that sparked the first moment of chaos at the "free speech" rally on April 29 in Montavilla Park, which then proceeded down 82nd Avenue, a miserable replacement for a neighborhood parade canceled due to the threat of political violence. The man in the flag cape was quickly swarmed by scrawny young antifa kids, then by officers from the Portland Police Bureau.
After the scrum dispersed, I stood by watching while police searched his backpack. They seemed to know that, prior to the march, he had posted a Facebook message threatening to "shoot to kill POLICE if they ATTEMPT DISARM" anyone openly carrying a firearm to the rally.
"Any guns in there?" an officer asked.
"Just comic books," he said. He was a big fan.
"I think that guy is mentally ill," one of the officers confided.
Almost certainly. Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, who was arrested yesterday on suspicion of killing two men who tried to protect two dark-skinned women wearing hijabs from his racist abuse, is also a notorious racist from North Portland who networked with other racists when he wasn't doing time (and, presumably, when he was).
Video by Mike Bivins.
When he extended his hand, I noticed the Nordic rune tattoos on his forearm. On his Facebook page, amid rants against organized religion and memes poking fun at Jews sentenced to die in the Nazi concentration camps, were other posts revealing his crazed "Misanthropic Nihilist" philosophy.
Christian expressed support for "Sanders/Stein 2017″—which some will certainly seize upon as a distraction. And it is a distraction, because the main current of Christian's ravings, online and off, was race hatred. "I want a job in Norway cutting off the heads of people that Circumcize Babies," he wrote.
On a fake news story showing Hillary Clinton wearing a hijab: "I'll knock that Hijab off her faster than you can say Burka in Pig Latin if she steps in Rip City."
He called President Donald Trump the antichrist, but meant it as a compliment.
"If Donald Trump is the Next Hitler then I am joining his SS to put an end to Monotheist Question. All Zionist Jews, All Christians who do not follow Christ's teaching of Love, Charity, and Forgiveness And All Jihadi Muslims are going to Madagascar or the Ovens/FEMA Camps!!! Does this make me a fascist!!!"
And so on: "If you support Israel for Zionist homeland for Jews then you should also support Cascadia as a White homeland for whites only racists…"
"I'm not Anti-Semitic. I'm Anti-Zionist and Anti-Monotheist."
Christian also has a disturbing track record of criminal activity, including—as The Oregonian reported this morning—a North Portland robbery in 2002 that ended when police shot him in the face.
When I caught up with him at the 82nd Avenue march last month, Christian
said he was there to support "free speech" and demanded to know which
side I was on. "Or are you one of these guys that tries to pretend
you're neutral?" he said.
I knew I was on whatever side he wasn't, but I just kept my mouth shut and let him talk. I didn't get much information out of Christian, or his friend, an older guy from the suburbs who was missing a few teeth, wearing dusty black leather biker gear, who refused to give his name because he was "too known."
The organizer of the march, Vancouver's Joey Gibson of the "Patriot Prayer" group that has invited more racist and anti-Semitic speakers to a June 4 rally in downtown Portland, disavowed any association with Christian.
But I got the distinct impression that Christian and his skittish friend had come to the rally with a larger crew.
As we spoke on the curb, I saw them signal to a fat man with the shaved head who was driving a yellow pickup truck flying a "Blue Lives Matter" flag off the back. The truck proceeded to circle the area as the right-wing marchers traded insults with antifa while marching down the city's immigrant main street.
Some reports will emphasize Christian's criminal record and his mental illness, just as early reports stressed the "random" nature of the double murder he is alleged to have committed yesterday, but it would be negligent not to investigate the possibility that Christian committed a premeditated hate crime, and that others may have known of his intention or encouraged him in the act.
The targets of his hate may have been broad—Muslims, Jews, feminists, liberals, police—but there's no doubt Christian had announced his intention to kill.