Portland's Heroes: Family and Friends Tell the Life Stories of Three Men Who Stood Up to Hate on the MAX

"To have this happen from the country he protected is what’s hardest.”

(Emily Joan Greene)

On May 26, three men intervened to stop the anti-Muslim harassment of two teenage girls on a Portland MAX train. All three were stabbed in the throat, allegedly by white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian.

Related: Portlanders arrive by the thousands to celebrate men who gave their lives on a MAX train.

As a stunned city grapples with the murders, family and friends remember the three men as people who would not back down in the face of hatred.

(Courtesy of Best family)

Rick "Ricky" John Best

Died at the scene.

Age: 53

Lived in: Happy Valley

Worked: 23-year Army veteran and city of Portland employee.

Remembered: "He couldn't just stand by and do nothing," Best's oldest son, Erik, tells WW's news partner KATU-TV. "He died fighting the good fight, protecting the innocent. Honestly, that's what he probably wanted."

His story: For 23 years, Best served in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising to the rank of platoon sergeant for corps maintenance in 2012, when he retired. "The hardest part of the acceptance of this is, he survived so many lethal situations in all the years he served," his youngest sister, Areana Best, 27, tells WW. "The kids always knew that their dad might not come back. When he retired, they had this sense of relief. To have this happen from the country he protected is what's hardest."

Erik, his eldest son, spoke to KATU on Sunday as part of an effort to tell the family's story, describing Ricky as an upbeat father who treated him like a brother . "He was always cheery. After serving the military, he used to say, 'Hey, I'm not getting shot at, so why shouldn't I smile?'" said Erik.

Best worked for the city since January 2015. He met his wife, Myhanh Duong Best, at Portland Community College. She's a stay-at-home mom for their four children, Erik, 19, Isaac, 17, David, 15, and Tramanh, 12.

How to help: Portland Bureau of Development Services interim director Rebecca Esau has started a scholarship fund for Best's children. His sister has also started a fundraiser for family expenses. Both can be found at gofundme.com.

(Courtesy of Asha Deliverance)

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche

Died at the hospital.

Age: 23

Lived in: Portland, grew up in Ashland

Studied: Reed College, class of 2016

Remembered: "For him to watch younger girls getting hassled—it could have been his sisters, and he was going to stand up to them," his mother, Asha Deliverance, told Medford TV station KDRV. "I'm really proud that he would."

His story: Namkai Meche received his bachelor's degree in economics from Reed last year, and was lovingly remembered by his professors. "He was thoughtful, humble, smart, inquisitive, and compassionate," says professor Kambiz GhaneaBassiri in a letter to the Reed community from president John R. Kroger. "He was a wonderful human being. As good as they come. And now he is a hero to me."

He stayed in Portland after graduating, working at the consulting firm Cadmus Group and buying a home.

Namkai Meche's mother announced his death to the world in a Facebook post seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

At the time of the attack, he was on the phone with an aunt who told KATU she had advised him to take video of the harassment but never meant for him to endanger himself.

His family released a statement to the media over the weekend: "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."

How to help: The local Muslim community has launched a fundraiser called "Muslims Unite for Portland Heroes" for all three men at launchgood.com. Restaurateur Nick Zukin is raising money for Namkai Meche's and Best's families on gofundme.com.


Micah David-Cole Fletcher

Survived, went home from the hospital May 29.

Age: 21

Lives in: Portland

Studies: Sophomore at Portland State University

In his own words: "The Muslim community, especially in Portland, needs to understand that there are a lot of us that are not going to stand by and let anybody—whether they are from here or not—scare you into thinking you can't be a part of this town, this city, this community, or this country," Fletcher told ABC News on May 30.

His story: Fletcher, a poet and musician, was bullied his entire life because he was different, says his mother, Margie Fletcher. Micah has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, she tells WW.

"He grew up wanting to stand up for anyone else who was bullied for any reason whatsoever," she says. "It was harder for him he tried to make friends he was different. From the age of about 12, he started defending people he didn't even know. He got beat up for it. I've been worried about it his entire life."

The community of autistic people has hailed Fletcher as a hero. "We should also acknowledge Micah as an Autistic man, because in doing so we can help to dispel the myths and stigma that challenged him and all of us," writes Ari Ne'eman, a former appointee to the National Council on Disability, in NOS Magazine.

How to help: Fletcher's friends have set up a crowdfunding page on gofundme.com to pay his medical bills.

In less than five days, crowdfunding campaigns for the victims of the May 26 triple stabbing on a Portland MAX train have raised more than $1.2 million.

Six different online fundraising campaigns sprouted in the wake of the killings. Money has been raised for the families of the men killed, medical expenses for the surviving victim, and mental health care for the two teenage girls who were initially targeted by the alleged killer.

(Emily Joan Greene)

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.